Socialist Night School: What is Class?

Start: Tuesday, November 24, 2020 7:30 PM Central America (GMT-06:00)

The Fall 2020 STL DSA Socialist Night School continues!

The Socialist Night School is open to anybody interested in learning more about the ideas and history behind left and socialist movements. Like most STL DSA events, we will be conducting these virtually, via Zoom, at least through the end of 2020. Suggested readings are provided via hyperlinks below.

Week 4: What is Class?

Class is central to how socialists understand the world and how we think about and contest for power, but what does class mean and how does class look in the 21st century? We'll start with some basic definitions from Marx and discuss their applicability to modern economic realities and conditions.

Starting with Micheal Zweig's straightforward--if reductive-- "Six Points on Class," Monthly Review 58, no. 3 (July 2006), which provides us with a basis for a simple argument: yes, even in our de-industrialized economy the working class constitutes a majority of the population.  

In "Death of a Yuppie Dream," published by the New York office of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung in 2013, Barbara Ehrenreich and John Ehrenreich revisit their 1977 theorization of a 'Professional Managerial Class' (PMC) distinct from the traditional middle class as well as from the capitalist and working class. With the deskilling and professionalization of many PMC occupations has much of it become part of the working class? Was the PMC ever a distinct class at all?

Whatever we think of the class formation arguments put forward by Ehrenreich and Zweig we are left with some political questions principal among these: Does class position prefigure political orientation? Does the working class by virtue of its position in the economy hold a special place in struggles for democracy and socialism? To help us explore these questions I suggest two brief pieces with divergent conclusions, Peter Meiksins, "Beyond the Boundary Questions," New Left Review I/157, May/June 1986, and Andre Gorz, "The New Agenda," NLR I/184, November/December 1990.

It's entirely possible to have a fruitful discussion without reading all (or any!) of these pieces, but these are provided as potentially useful guideposts.