Note on the Perennial Sophistication of Bourgeois Class-Consciousness


None of the global problems we face can be overcome by primitive economic structures driven by short-term material gains. The system will collapse under the weight of its own internal contradictions unless all industrial activity is subordinate to direct democratic control by workers and other stakeholders within the communities in which they operate.

Unaccountable private tyrannies with disproportionate influence over government policies must be dismantled and replaced by self-organized systems that allow the full social and intellectual development of human beings.

Again, the system as it exists today is definitively incapable of solving the problems it has created. The ruling class itself was the first to identify antagonism between economic classes and it remains the most class-conscious sector of society. The innovation of Marx was not the identification of empirical class structures in society, but rather that such antagonism would lead to the dictatorship of the proletariat and gradual development to socialism. 

For an example of bourgeois class-consciousness , take the National Association of Manufacturers which warned in 1938 of the “hazard facing industrialists” in “the newly realized political power of the masses”; “Unless their thinking is directed we are definitely headed for adversity.” Notice the quality of the language used. If you were on the other side of the fence talking about “the political power of the masses,” you would be labeled a vulgar Marxist and undergo violent suppression or marginalization by all the familiar means.

Understand that it is in the interest of the ruling class that you analyze society along national, racial, and other more arbitrary lines because it blocks the development of critical class-consciousness.

Class-consciousness is marked by understanding our relationship to the means of production, distribution and exchange, the ability to identify natural political allies, and acute recognition of the oppressive elements inherent in the social system in which we are embedded.

Lacking critical awareness of the underlying class dynamics of society, an individual can easily be convinced by someone like Donald Trump that the reason for the growing wealth gap is a Mexican who is decided to sell his labour for minimum wage in Texas.

This tactic has been used by the dominant classes for ages. Take the end of slavery in American. The class represented by the plantation owners convinced the poor whites that all the blacks were going to steal their jobs and on top of that rape their wives. The poor whites and the blacks of course were natural political allies, but the ruling class in their own self-interest pit them against each other while they further entrenched their tyrannical hold over society.

Same story today. There is nothing new under the sun. Patriotism has always been a tool used by powerful people to warp the perception of the masses. If you look at what Adam Smith was saying at the time of the American revolution, he correctly identified for the people of England that the relationship between the Crown and her colonies was not the same for the different classes of England.

Smith wrote that abandoning the colonies would be “more advantageous to the great body of the people [of England],” but “less so to the merchants,” because their monopoly, “though it may increase the revenue of a particular order of the men in Great Britain, diminishes instead of increases that the great body of the people.” You see that all the merchants had to do was supply the masses with fiery patriotic rhetoric to rally them behind a cause which was actually detrimental to their collective economic interests.

Centuries later in America is the same story whenever the masters of society need to rally the people behind their next favorite war disregarding the cost to the domestic working class and its overseas counterparts. If you are focused on an imagery foreign enemy thereby internalizing the interests of the oppressors, there is little chance for you being a force for liberal development of society nor an agent toward creating a more just and equitable world.