Big Lie of 2010 No. 9: We are all middle class

Canadians like to think of themselves as middle class. Notice the fan fare attached to the release of Hulchanski’s and co. study on the trend toward the hollowing out of the middle class.

I had always thought the term “middle class” a little pedantic in light conversation and of dubious merit in an academic setting as it was just too broad of a descriptor–a hanging signifier if I may be permitted–a choose your own adventure work of fiction if you will. But its neo-Weberian pedigree with its black mould like grip on the bulk of the Canadian intelligentsia has ensured that it remains the ontological “work-horse”, plotting along in the back of most educated Canadians self understanding. It never fit the facts (that is indeed why term kept on stretching: plumbing lower then floating higher). Like the statue of liberty and its vacant promise of equal refuge to all, the term is above all an ideological and not a scientific category which expands as needs be with the comfort of the academic’s good conscious.

The big lie then (No. 9) is not that somehow we have finally discovered that the last thirty years have been very unequal. Indeed we knew this; and we know this. No the big lie is not about inequality and the crystal meth that neoliberalism is to that trajectory,but, rather, it is the attempt, by otherwise reputable economists, to paper it over by trying to claim that in fact the great divide is not between those who work for capital and capitalists but between age classes of workers; i.e., workers and retired workers, with the latter being conceptualized as the capitalist class. The degree of dishonesty here is on par with the regular reality defying dissembling of the Fraser Institute.

The idea that wealth disparity is largely a function of age is nothing less than an attempt to paper-over the basic divide between those who work for someone else and those that employ others.

It is all fine and dandy if you want to try to paper this reality over with the idea that the real economic cleavage is between workers earning present wages and workers drawing down differed wages. The problem is that to make this argument the case would have to be, to quote myself from elsewhere that:

“All financial assets WERE somewhere around GINI = 0 AND WERE concentrated in the the generational cohort of say 60 +.

I was also thinking that IF air-planes did not fly but rather traversed the earth on round pneumatic devices they might more properly be called buses.”

However, the need of respectable economists to reduce us all to middle class is as much a Weberian as an Austrian hangover which in terms of intellectual history should not be all that surprising. The term middle class has long been a sop to a faux egalitarianism that attempts to sweep away real class divisions by throwing everyone into the same sink and calling everyone a dirty dish.

On this score I will take Conrad Black’s antiquarian hooliganism over earnest but nonetheless dissembling simplifying assumptions.

At least with the Canard I know exactly why I am not invited to the table: in Conrad’s house the Doctors came in through the servants entrance.

How positively upper middle class of him?

2 thoughts on “Big Lie of 2010 No. 9: We are all middle class

  1. Yeah but surely THE ideological problem in the world today is that American self-perception is bourgeois through and through – and that, per welfare state mechanisms, they have been able to live this dream to some unsustainable extent or other, for 40 years now. The problem is how attached Americans and their world-wide facebook style fan-base are to their own middle-class identity. Unless a spectacularly big change happens in U.S. popular consciousness, they will destroy the world before they will lose that identity. It may be ideological, and its positive existence non-ascertainable by science, but it’s an important lie. Do you think a bunch of pamphlets or blogs telling ‘the people’, “hey joe, you’re a prole” is gonna be that big change? Leonard Cohen – “the heart has got to open in a fundamental way.”

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