Everyone loves the middle class. Everyone claims to be middle-class—some to put a gloss on their sketchy escutcheons, others to dodge chastisement for their awkward riches. But in fact both the socioeconomic reality and the concept of the middle class have been turned on their heads and, at the same time, trivialized into a mere lifestyle choice.Economically, the middle classes were once proprietors, self-employed owners of property and their own labor. Morally, they were the equivalent of “solid citizens”: decent, hard-working, law-abiding, temperate, proper, staid, virtuous, and—well, moral. The qualifications for being middle class have gotten a whole lot looser, to say the least. (...)Circa 1800, 80 percent of Americans were self-employed. By 1870 it was 41 percent. By 1940 it was 18 percent. By 1967 it was only 9 percent. (The figures are from Victoria Bonnell and Michael Reich, Workers in the American Economy: Data on the Labor Force.) Now, we are told, it is really only the “One Percent.”“Middle class,” meanwhile, came to mean anyone who works for a living. It is not unusual to see “middle class” and “working class” used interchangeably, which has led to the cheesy equivalence of “white collar” and “blue collar.” Even the unemployed are now eligible for elevation to the great middle. Anyone who has clung to a part-time job or might get one via state largesse is potentially middle-class. Only the rich don’t qualify.Middle class, in other words, has completely lost its socioeconomic bearings.
Thursday, November 05, 2015
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 10:23