Sunday, February 7, 2016

the decline and fall of working class pride

One of the most damaging things that has happened to our society over the past century is the decay of the working class. More importantly, the decay of working class pride has been catastrophic.

It’s popular to date the decline of western civilisation to the 1960s (and it’s fashionable in some conservative circles to blame it all on the Baby Boomers). In fact, like so many of the disasters that have afflicted us, this one started in the early 1950s.

The collapse of manufacturing industry has of course made a huge contribution to the destruction of the working class. The destruction of working class pride however has other roots. The first contributing cause was the obsession with higher education that started after the Second World War. By the late 1950s the absurd idea was already taking root that everybody should have a university education. This is of course arrant nonsense. Universities are useful for people who want to be doctors or engineers or physicists. Most degrees outside these areas are essentially hobby degrees, with no usefulness in the real world. For most people university is a waste of time and money and simply gives people ridiculously unrealistic expectations. What proportion of the population actually needs a university degree? My guess would be around five percent.

The explosion in the number of university students that began in the 50s and really took off in the 60s contributed to the idea that the only jobs that deserved respect were jobs that required a university degree.

Coupled with the higher education boom (and both feeding it and feeding off it) was an increasing disdain for blue-collar jobs. Eventually even blue-collar workers came to share this disdain and came to see themselves as being inferior to white-collar workers, despite the fact that a very large number of blue-collar jobs are both more socially useful and require more skill than most white-collar jobs.

When you add the slow but steady decline of manufacturing industry to the mix you get a gradual but inexorable erosion in working class confidence and pride. 

The situation was however even worse than this. From the 1960s the Old Left, which used to care about working class communities and working class families, began its own decline. The Old Left was sometimes misguided and sometimes unrealistic in its assumptions and was even at times short-sighted and bloody-minded but there was some genuine concern for ordinary working-class people. 

The New Left was to be very different. The New Left was middle-class and intellectual. They despised the working class. The New Left steadily lost interest in economic justice. Now it was “social justice” that mattered. Identity politics took over from class politics. Middle-class people, especially wealthy university-educated elite middle-class people (the ones who dominated the New Left), aren’t very interested in economic justice or class politics. They’re doing fine and they don’t care what happens to any lower down the social scale. Not only are they uninterested in confronting economic issues - they want to avoid such issues at all costs. 

Identity politics on the other is the kind of thing that appeals to them. It’s mostly about advancing the interests of other wealthy university-educated elite middle-class people. Even black identity politics tends to fit this mould. It’s noteworthy that so much of the Black Live Matter activism is not happening in poor black neighbourhoods. It’s happening on college campuses, among wealthy university-educated elite middle-class black kids. 

Of course enthusiasm for open borders has immense appeal to the New Left - it means lower wages for working-class people, it means cheaper servants and nice upscale ethnic restaurants. The downside to mass immigration does not affect middle-class people at all.

Identity politics is the betrayal of everything the Left used to stand for.

And of course as the Left has abandoned the working class, working class pride has fallen still further. The destruction of the family has naturally made a bad situation much worse. Middle-class people might be able to believe that family is optional. For working-class people it’s an absolute essential.

The working class has slowly been transformed into the underclass, which simply leads middle-class elites to despise such people even more. And so the circle becomes ever more vicious. In the US the working class is literally dying - death rates for poor white males are increasing, a shameful thing indeed for a First World country.

I’m working class myself and I can still remember when that was something to be proud of. Those days seem a long time ago now.

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