[OPE] proletarianization and the economic crisis

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@tiscali.nl>
Date: Fri Mar 13 2009 - 10:46:08 EDT

Normally, the phenomenon of "class" is thought to have both objective and subjective dimensions. In an objective sense, class exists in the form of social stratifications, or rankings, according to objective criteria such as income, asset wealth, and occupational position in the broad sense. From data about these rankings we can already scientifically predict a lot of things about social behaviour and about social characteristics of populations.

However, we cannot so easily predict what individuals will do, from their objective class position, or their class background, although the more arrogant Marxists claim that they can, with the aid of a reifying, discriminatory class reductionism. With "class delusions", notions of class are reified, in the sense the the subjective is improperly objectified, and the objective is improperly subjectivised. You can often observe that people will tend to return, in the course of their life, to the cultural milieu that they grew up in, they feel most comfortable with that, but this is by no means an absolute rule.

In the subjective sense of "class" you feel you meaningfully belong to a certain kind of class, a certain way of life, you recognize what class you are part of, or, a large group of people realize they share a common lot, that they are in the same position, and have the same common interests. There are all sorts of gradations of awareness possible, in this sense.

The "dialectics" of class then concern about the specific ways of how the objective and the subjective are related - their unity and separation, and how they affect each other. That is to say, social classes exist only within historical time, in a process of development, they have an historicity, the conciousness of class grows out of past experience and out of envisioning the future, how people are placed in this.

The ability of stable, distinctive social classes to form in a cultural sense, depends quite a lot on the amount of social mobility there is, even if the class structure stays more or less the same. If there is a lot of mobility possible in space and time, then it is more or less tautological that the rankings which there are, do not constitute a very strong, socially effective barrier or boundary, and really do not have so much effect. The corrollary is that people will then not pay so much attention to class differences, because the moral or practical effect is slight.

The "class feelings" and "class meanings" or the "class mentalities" in different countries are not all the same, because they are formed historically in a different way. But through the globalization of capital, mass international migration and through tourism, similar sorts of norms often begin to be applied everywhere. As one American worker on tour told me here in Amsterdam once, a bit cynically, "it's the same shit, everywhere you go". I talked to a stewardess once who similarly remarked about the extent to which conditions were becoming "culturally equalised" across the world, practically no holes or anything were left undiscovered anywhere.

The elites will generally argue for maximum freedom for capital, and minimum freedom for workers, who should do as they're told. They do not talk about labour mobility as such, but about labour flexibility, wages should be flexible downwards, and workers should be made to go to where the job is. But normally we aim for optimising labour mobility for workers as human beings, maximum freedom for workers, as a prerequisite for international solidarity. No real solidarity is feasible, if the freedom of some workers is conditional on the unfreedom of other workers.


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Received on Fri Mar 13 10:54:34 2009

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