Sorry this is so incredibly late. Some of my reasons are perfectly legitimate. Yesterday I was extensively possessed by Mobia, muse of furniture moving. (Actually there is a method to that madness, since we need to clear passageways for the second wave of movers coming to bring stuff in on Wednesday. Right now passageways are choked with book boxes inexplicably marked for my office and brought to it, instead of downstairs to the library. I was also entering my office by vaulting — at my age! — over a small table intended to hold derpy and my printer — which I badly need — so that had to change.) So right now my office if 90% set up, including the little constellation of handblown witchballs hanging from the ceiling.) This work lasted till one in the morning, when I collapsed more or less unconscious, which means I woke up at seven thirty, i.e. about an hour later than normal. This part is legitimate.
The less legitimate delay is that, instead of rushing to my office to dash off a blog, its being trash day, I did the litter boxes and changed them to fresh sand, putting the old sand out with the trash, then prepared dinner for tonight, since we’re planning to go to the other house and work this afternoon and neither my purse nor my waistline can afford for me to go out to eat yet again. (Seriously, why do you always gain weight on restaurant meals? Even when you eat less than at home?)
The less legitimate delay is that while having a second cup of coffee I got captured by The Lost Literature of Socialism by George Watson. I think it was one of you reprobates who made me aware of this book, and I’ve read — and looked up references — on the first third (it’s a short book) while putting dinner in crockpot and while having coffee.
One of the thing Watson says which would probably make heads spin in current day US particularly the heads of casual (read un-informed) socialists and school teachers, is that socialism at its inception was often a conservative ideology. Conservative here is used in the sense of preserving a society of different ranks, as opposed to the radical egalitarianism of the French Revolution.
At its inception, socialism was often wedded to the idea that the majority of men are made to obey their “superiors” who will plan things so that those too stupid to care for themselves (it’s implied) will not actually starve/be poor/whatever. Thus the whole idea of scientific governance. Also the idea that “concern for the poor” could involve killing them wholesale. Apparently H. G. Wells advocated killing all the “inferior races.” (Note he’s not being given the Lovecraft treatment by today’s progressives. Apparently using the term “socialist” for oneself is a magical shielf even for DEAD white supremacists. Also note that the alt.right would be more properly named the OLD Right. Antediluvian in fact.) Because scientifically they are a drain on society. Apparently the old socialists objected to Hitler calling himself a socialist on the grounds that his corporatism violated the tenets of socialism (more than seems to us, since socialism was a philosophy of the old noblemen in OPPOSITION to the noveau rich and the new preponderance of commerce) but they never objected to his racialist theories.
There is much there to chew on, little of it a shock or surprise to me, because I grew up in Europe where the sons and daughter of the “best” families are invariably socialists, since they believe they are entitled to tell other people how to live and it is their proud duty to stick their noses in your biddiness for your own good, of course.
The parlance of care for the poor and such seems to have emerged later, to appease people who didn’t believe in nobility anymore, and to make those of privileged upbringing (as most socialists are) feel less guilty.
Being of the belief that no one is born with the right to hurt people or take their stuff (even if it’s in the name of helping/giving to other people) I stand in stark opposition to people who think that if only they can fashion the proper saddle, it is their birthright to ride the rest of us like ponies.
This is meat for one or several posts. But the thing that struck me was the part on class.
There are these moments where even I, who have tried to self-consciously extirpate Marxism (for a port-manteau since some of the concepts predated Marx, although it took that aspergers bugger to make it rigid and totally contrary to reality and also simple enough to enthrall the simple minds of pseudo intellectuals) from my thought, keep using ideas and terms from it without much thought.
Take class — please. I have no use for it — as a concept.
What it started with was “estate” which instead of a house and land (linguistic drift there) in the middle ages meant something like “what you were born to do” or “Your place and mission in life.”
In the Middle Ages, as we all know, there were three estates: those who fought, those who prayed and those who worked. Of course what we all know has holes you can drive an eighteen wheeler through, and anyone who studies any era more deeply finds a multitude more estates.
My understanding is that even in the middle middle ages there would be many people who didn’t fit into these three neat pigeonholes. There were those who tinkered, those who influenced kings, those who did the accounting, and those who traded.
I’ll let suburbanbanshee pronounce on it, if she’s in the mood. BUT until then, the fact is that at least at a distance, that is the most closely that profession and status matched. If you were born in the class that fought, you weren’t going to get any guff from those who worked, because, tada, you had a sword and knew how to use it.
Then there was the black plague, which made labor scarce and, in a brutal simplification, precipitated the industrial revolution in its first, most timid phase. And then status, occupation and power all became scrambled.
Several novelists have captured several states of the newly rich commercial class supplanting the old “those who fought” class. To a certain extent the revolutions since the French have been an attempt of the clerics to displace the old nobility. (Insert here your favorite linguistic joke about cleric coming from clerk, and our new secular religions of multiculturalism and environmentalism.)
But the fact is that since the very beginning of the industrial revolution (what we’d call cottage industry and a little bit of commerce) profession and status and power have all become unmoored of each other and flapping loose and twining whichever way.
You’ll say that they are not entirely loose, that there is no way that dirty, manual labor will ever command status and/or power. Brother! Have you tried to find/hire a decent handyman? If I’d actually had a hint of the future, instead of going to college, I’d have apprenticed with my granddad and would now be cleaning up as a furniture maker. (Actually I knew someone who made a one-piece, antique reproduction, by old methods, with handtools, a year. That took him about 3 months, and he got 60k for it in the mid-eighties. He had 9 months to do whatever he pleased afterwards. I SHOULD have learned to use granddad’s tools and inherited them.)
They were already going that way and it was fairly obvious when Marx tried to pin it to the classes of his day, which is why he became obsessed with ownership of the means of production. (Also, never having run a business, he had no idea it was actual work/risk.)
But that applies even less in our day. For instance, if you take that definition, my entire profession just moved from laborers to capitalists, at least in theory, since we now can own all the means of production involved in getting our product to the public.
So by the mid 20th century, “Marxists” were instead pinning classes to economic strata which seemed to the uninformed to be a good way to track status and power.
It wasn’t. It probably never was. It is, I suppose, expected that materialists would think that money is the source of all blessings, as well as the root of all evil, but I grew up with grandma, whose actual income in money probably qualified her as a pauper, but who made and grew most of what she needed and was accorded Granny Aching like respect in the village, thereby proving you can have status without money. As for power… Note the reference to Granny Aching… or Granny Weatherwax. There is power that doesn’t derive from the government and the power of a matriarch can be both near limitless and terrifying.
I was in 9th or 10th grade when a friend newly struck with the Marxist bug tried to explain to me that it was unfair that my family was of an upper class. I ended up tying her in knots chasing “class” since neither by the traditional Marxist definition nor my income was my “class” any higher than hers. Her father made more money than mine, and both our fathers worked in other people’s factories.
So she devolved to something like “Well, your family is more refined.” Which in a way was true, but not in origins, as mom grew up in something that was only not qualified as a slum because Portuguese refused to admit it was one. If it were and now, it would be called “the hood” and there as now here then as now, you clutched your purse and minded yourself, because it was a dangerous area. It’s just that my parents both tried to cultivate the bourgeois virtues of cleanliness, thrift, delayed gratification and industriousness to which mom (in a perpetual war with my uncle’s arranged-marriage wealthy (for the village!) bride) added airs of refinement which extended well beyond our income, because mom was an artist at heart (probably still is.))
This was the origin of her resentment of our “upper class” but she didn’t seem to get it was something that could neither be redistributed NOR was being held back from her family if only they chose to apply it.
Since then I’ve found she was the vanguard of all socialists. Nowadays they routinely try to give people the rewards of bourgeois virtues in the belief that the virtues will then follow, in a sort of putting the material cart in front of the ethical horse and being shocked the cart doesn’t pull.
In America this is even more complicated, since no one quite agrees on markers of class/status and power.
One of you at one time said high class in America was having matching glasses, in which case my family falls in and out of high class as a set gets mostly broken, we discard most of the remains and buy a new one. This might very well be true. Our rulers (you wish they were our leaders, but no) seem to think status is tied to home ownership so they try to redistribute that, leading to the real estate crisis of 08.
I think the best thing is to assume that America, being a country of Odds, ain’t got no class. Classes don’t apply much of anywhere, out of Marx’s Aspergers imagination, but they SURELY don’t apply here.
We’re not a classless society, of course. We are still monkeys (oh, apes? Ain’t you la-dee-dah) and therefore we need status. But we find our status in our own groups, and in our own way. I was very shocked to find that Phillip Jose Farmer (love is World of Tiers, hate Riverworld) someone I revered as a kid was working a convenience store. To me he was high status. Now I am sometimes shocked at being treated as though I were high class even when we’re struggling to make ends meet while putting the kids through college.
Because status and respect is where you find it and in what you do. It’s easy (well, not for me, but) to have a ton of money and no status. We all know the “brother in law of someone rich” syndrome. It means nothing. That guy might be accorded respect to his face because who needs trouble, but everyone laughs when his back is turned. In the same way in some circles, someone with neither wealth nor power will be treated as royalty, because we know what they did/do and the influence they wielded upon our lives.
America definitely has people who have a lot of class, but in terms of divisions between the people where everyone is as much of a widget as even noblemen and peasants of the Middle Ages could be interchangeable (which was never much) we ain’t got no class. And we like it that way. As long as we can slap back into line those who think laws are for the little people, we’ll do fine.