posted on Jun, 27 2006 @ 12:03 PM
So -- what classes exist in the U.S. today? And what classes used to exist but don't any more? And what can we expect down the road?
First off, people may be divided vertically into Upper, Middle, and Lower classes, defined as follows:
Upper classes consist of people who control so much wealth and power that they are able to coerce members of the lower classes, either directly or by
controlling access to rewards, into obeying their will.
Middle classes consist of people who control enough wealth and power that they are able to live independently and not be subject to coercion by the
Lower classes consist of people who are dependent on the upper classes for their survival, and must serve in order to get by.
What puts a person in one class or another, to my way of thinking, isn't so much wealth as power. A moderately successful small businessman may not
make as much money as a factory worker, but he is his own boss, and that makes him middle class while the factory worker is lower class. Still,
wealth often translates into power. If the factory worker makes enough money that he is able to save and invest, and so to survive for long periods
of time with or without a job, for all intents and purposes he's moved into the middle class.
The other division is horizontal rather than vertical. Upper classes may be divided from each other based on the source of their power. Middle
classes may be divided based on the source of their independence. And lower classes may be divided based on the source of their subsistence.
I can thus recognize three upper classes (one of them extinct), three middle classes, and two lower classes (one of them extinct). Beneath all of
these is what I would call the chronic poor: people who live on public assistance, the disabled, those suffering from mental illness or drug
dependency. This class has a separate interest still. I'm not going to talk about it much, except to mention that when one speaks of "the poor"
or "welfare recipients" this is the class one means, and it is not the same as the working class -- which however is also poor and getting
These are the nine classes that I can identify.
Warrior-Aristocrats (Upper class, extinct). Source of power: Land ownership, wealth derived from large-scale farming, the prestige of
military service. The titled aristocrats of foreign countries were in this upper class. So were the slave-owning planters of the pre-Civil War South
in the U.S., and more precariously the same planters after the Civil War, relying on sharecropping and other forms of forced labor but denied actual
slaves. This class matched the titled nobility of Europe not only in its economic strength and reliance on forced labor, but also in the tradition it
held of military service. Today, all large-scale farming is done by corporations run by the Merchant Princes (see below), and the Warrior-Aristocrat
class is dead.
Merchant Princes (Upper class). Source of power: Commercial expertise, wealth derived from investments in commerce and industry. This is the
dominant upper class in America today, and in most other parts of the world, too.
Governing Class (Upper class, at one time the Priestly/Governing Class). Source of power: Expertise at law and government, holding of high
government office, whether elected or appointed.
Yeomanry (Middle class). Source of independence: land ownership, successful small farming.
Petit Bourgeoisie (Middle class). Source of independence: ownership of and successful engagement in small business.
Professionals (Middle class). Source of independence: highly-paid professional skills allowing the professional either to work entirely
independently, or to effectively call the shots within employment.
Slaves/Serfs (Lower class, extinct). Source of subsistence: labor performed under duress for the benefit (mostly) of the Warrior/Aristocrat
class. When the black slaves were freed under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, they did not leave this class, but rather were promoted from
true slavery to a kind of serfdom. Only with the industrialization of agriculture and the migration of blacks from the farms to the cities did the
Slave/Serf class cease to exist.
Working Class (Lower class). Source of subsistence: labor performed for cash payment (under the duress of dire need and inability to support
oneself otherwise) for the benefit (mostly) of the Merchant Princes class.
Underclass (Lower class). Source of subsistence: public assistance of one kind or another. I mention this class mostly to point out that it
is not the same as the working class; those two should not be lumped together as "the poor."
Can anyone truly believe that these classes have the same interests? History says otherwise: conflicts have arisen not only vertically but
horizontally as well, e.g. between the Warrior/Aristocrats and Merchant Princes in the Civil War.
To say that a member of the Working Class has the same interests as a member of the Merchant Princes, and that what is good for the latter is
automatically good for the former, is pure nonsense. Someone ought to say so -- and it might as well be me.