What is the Relationship between Class and the Left?

By Daniel B.

… what I do not quite understand about some New-Left writers is why they cling so mightily to ‘the working class’ of the advanced capitalist societies as the historic agency, or even as the most important agency, in the face of the really historical evidence that now stands against this expectation.

C. Wright Mills, Letter to the New-Left

In this article I will attempt to give a Marxian answer to the question: “What is the relationship between class and the left?” To do so, I will address it in three parts. First, what is class? Second, what is the left? Third, what is the relationship between class and the left? Anticipating what follows, my conclusion and the answer for which I will argue is that the actually existing “left”, in the wake of the New Left’s displacement beginning in the 1960s of the largely working-class Old Left, is a politically activated portion of the unproductive, professional-managerial segment of the working class, the so-called “middle class”, which advocates for its own immediate interests, which are specific to unproductive workers, rather than advocating any kind of political-economic development that would generally advance society beyond the contemporary configuration of neoliberal, financialized capitalism.

I. What is Class?

To give a definition of class which can help us explain the contemporary political-social-economic situation in which we find ourselves at present (neoliberal, financialized capitalism), such that we could do something about it, I will distinguish class from another category which it might seem to resemble, yet which is very different: ascriptive identity.

Ascriptive identity is a category that names different types of relatively immutable properties of individuals, whom it then groups according to those properties. Ascriptive identity concerns the properties with which individuals identify, ‘as’ which they identify themselves, or as which others identify them. That is, ascriptive identity concerns what individuals consciously think that they ‘are’ or what others think that they ‘are’. It concerns gender, race, ethnicity, ability, and so on. Moreover, ascriptive identity is primarily discursive. And it is the basis for so-called “identity politics”. Many leftists today treat class as though it were one identity among others; as though class politics were a subset of identity politics. For example, the “working class” understood as an identity might designate white, heterosexual male, denim-clad manual laborers, who listen to rock and roll and prefer lite beer. Of course, this is a caricature. But it illustrates the way in which class is distorted beyond recognition when it is understood as though it were an identity.

The Marxian concept of class does not concern the properties of individuals, or what they or others think that they ‘are’. Rather, it classifies individuals according to what they ‘do’ or the functions that they perform in a socio-economic system such as modern capitalism.[1]Cf. David Harvey, The Enigma of Capital (2010): “… multiculturalism can accommodate the ideal of equality between most self-identified social groups, [but] the one persistent divide that creates … Continue reading There are, however, roughly two different concepts of class that are associated with Marxism, which must be distinguished from one another.

1. The first concept of class that is associated with Marxism is what I will call the “politics-first” view of class. It is a primarily political view of class that is found in Marx’s earlier writings, before 1848, before he seriously studied political economy in the British Library (1850s to ’60s). It can be found, for example, in The Communist Manifesto, and it is the conception of class found in traditional, political Marxism (e.g., Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, etc.). Four points are important to note about the politics-first view of class.

First, it views history generally as a power struggle between groups of individuals over finite resources according to their various interests. That is, it views human history as a history of the fight between groups of people for power and resources in a way that is not specific to modern capitalist economies.[2]Cf. Marx’s Manifesto: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”. And you do not need to be a Marxist to hold this view (c.f. Nietzsche, Bismarck, Weber, etc.).

Second, the classes that exist specifically within modern capitalism, according to the politics-first view, are the “proletariat” (i.e., working class), “petit bourgeoisie” (i.e., self-employed craftspeople, merchants or professionals), and the “bourgeoisie” (i.e., capitalists).[3]Cf. Marx’s Manifesto. The “lumpenproletariat” (i.e., under- or unemployed underclass) is also sometimes mentioned, though it is often disregarded politically. Generally speaking, traditional Marxists try to interpret contemporary society with these three classes,[4]Cf. Leila Mechoui & Alexander McKay, “It’s the Petite Bourgeoisie, Stupid”. though, I argue, this is a mistake, because it does not represent the contemporary economic situation. The politics-first view is also not Marx’s ultimate view, and it is too crude to grasp the specifics of the present socio-economic situation.

Third, the politics-first view of class is characterized by the way in which it considers classes to be relatively homogeneous. That is, it does not consider the three classes it speaks of to be internally differentiated into subclasses or segments within the classes. And so, it is an abstract view of class, rather than a concrete view, which could grasp the internal diversity within the working class or capitalist class. Moreover, it generally regards the petit bourgeoisie as a class that is politically and economically irrelevant, declining into the proletariat, and disappearing historically. And so, the politics-first view ultimately ends up with an abstract and dualistic view of two classes locked in political struggle: the proletariat (i.e., working class) and the bourgeoisie (i.e., capitalist class).[5]Cf. Marx’s Manifesto: “Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up … Continue reading But the contemporary situation is arguably more complex, as I will address.

Fourth and finally, it is important to note that the politics-first view is a description of classes, the primary advantage of which was practical and served propagandistic purposes. It is not an explanation of anything, because it does not present an explanatory term (i.e., cause) that would determine whatever it would explain (i.e., effect). Namely, the class-first view does not explain political dynamics in terms of economic developments, as Marx’s mature view does,[6]Cf. Marx’s Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy: “In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, … Continue reading but rather simply correlates classes with “interests” as a guide to practical action.

2. The second concept of class that is associated with Marxism, but which is rarely advanced by political Marxists, is what I will call the “economy-first” view. It is found in Marx’s Capital and Theories of Surplus Value. According to the economy-first view, classes name the various functions that groups of people perform in an economic system of production, or what people ‘do’ in an economic sense. In our present case, the economic system in question is advanced capitalism, which is a macroeconomic system of the production and distribution of aggregate profits (i.e., surplus value). And so, the functions in question have to do with the production, appropriation, and distribution of profits. The three major classes that Marx identifies are the working class (i.e., waged and salaried manual and intellectual laborers), the capitalist class (i.e., industrial, commercial, and financial capitalists), and landlords (i.e., rentiers).

In the economy-first view, classes are defined in relation to the aggregate profits (surplus value) that are produced by workers when capitalists employ (i.e., exploit) workers and that capitalists appropriate and distribute throughout the economic system, for instance to landlords. The relation in which people stand to that aggregate profit (i.e., surplus value) has to do with the function that they perform in relation to it, in the process of its production, in exchange for the specific kind of revenue or income that they receive, which are deductions from the aggregate value that workers produce and realize. Moreover, and this is crucial, the three major classes are broken down into subclasses; they are internally differentiated or heterogeneous, rather than relatively homogeneous. Marx’s richer, economic conception of class can be pictured as follows:

The working class (blue) consists of:

         1. industrial workers (red), who produce surplus value in the process of production of commodities, and which Marx calls “productive labor”;[7]Karl Marx, Capital Volume I. Penguin Edition, p. 644, cf. p. 1044.

         2. commercial workers (orange) and financial workers (yellow), who realize that surplus value for capitalists in the process of circulation or exchange of commodities on the market, and which Marx calls “necessary” and “useful” but “unproductive” labor; and

         3. managerial workers (green), who “supervise” and “discipline” the rest of the working class according to the needs of absentee capitalist owners and recipients of profits.[8]Cf. ibid., 450, 549-60, 986 ; volume III, 509-10.

Note: commercial and financial workers and managerial workers are “unproductive labor” (light blue). They may be “useful” and “necessary” for the process of production and realization of aggregate profits (surplus value, net value), but they do not produce the value in question or the commodities that constitute it; they are an “overhead cost of production” (faux frais de production), which is deducted from the aggregate sum of value that workers produce and realize (gross value).

And similarly, the capitalist class (red) consists of:

         1. industrial capitalists (red), who employ productive industrial workers to produce the commodities that constitute the aggregate profits (surplus value, net value added);

         2. commercial capitalists (orange), who employ unproductive commercial workers to realize the aggregate profits (surplus value) for the capitalist class in the market; and

         3. financial capitalists (yellow), who lend credit to industrial and commercial capitalists in order to finance and lubricate the functioning of production and exchange of commodities and therefore aggregate profits.

Landlords (purple) constitute a separate class of unproductive recipients of unearned income. They are legally entitled to portions of other people’s income in exchange for the use of a real asset that they possess. The more contemporary analog here would be absentee owners of financial capital or rentiers.

The capitalist and working classes and their respective subclasses correspond to one another according to the functions that they perform in the economic system of aggregate profit production and can be distinguished according to the forms in which they receive their respective incomes or revenues: workers receive wages or salaries; industrial and commercial capitalists receive profits, while financial capitalists receive interest; and landlords receive rent. But it is essential to note that these various forms of income or revenue are simply different forms of the aggregate value that industrial workers produce and commercial workers realize in the market.[9]Cf. Karl Marx, Capital Volume III. Penguin edition, chapter 48. The only truly productive sector is industry, though it requires commerce to realize the aggregate profits (surplus value) on which capitalist society depends. The various forms of income are all simply deductions from the pool of aggregate value added, which is produced when industrial workers are exploited and commercial workers realize that value in the market.[10]Cf. chapter XI of Karl Marx, Value, Price and Profit: “Rent, interest, and industrial profit are only different names for different parts of the surplus value of the commodity, or the unpaid labour … Continue reading

It will be helpful to picture this process as follows:

In exchange for a portion of the aggregate profits (i.e., interest), financial capitalists lend credit money (M) to industrial capitalists for the purpose of production. Industrial capitalists then invest that money capital (M) by purchasing commodities (C), such as the means of production and labor power, in order to facilitate a process of production (…P…) of more commodities (C′), which, when they are sold, exchange for a value (M′) which is greater than the costs of production (M−C). The difference in value (ΔM) between the value of the final product (C′−M′, gross value) and the original value of the means of production (M−C) is the surplus value (net value added). This cycle of investment, production or exploitation, sales or realization of value, and reinvestment is continually repeated.[11]Cf. part VII of volume I of Capital: The conversion of a sum of money [M] into means of production and labour-power [C], is the first step taken by the quantum of value that is going to function as … Continue reading Accumulation is the pulse of a capitalist economy. And it is the source of the aggregate value from which all classes’ and subclasses’ income or revenue is a deduction: industrial and commercial capitalists get profits, financial capitalists get interest, landlords get a piece of everyone’s income or revenue as rent, while workers get wages or a salary. And so, the wages or salaries of all unproductive workers, the profits of commercial capitalists, the interest of financial capitalists, and the rent of landlords are all “overhead costs of production” (faux frais de production) which are deducted from the aggregate or gross value produced by industry.

Here one must finally note that the economy-first view of class presents a concrete view of class, which is internally differentiated or relatively heterogeneous. It highlights not only interclass relations and potential conflicts, but also intra-class relations and potential conflicts. It captures the complex, contemporary socio-political-economic situation in which we arguably find ourselves much more accurately than the politics-first view found in traditional Marxism. For example, it can capture conflicts between industrial and financial capitalists, or between productive and unproductive/managerial workers, or between the latter and the capitalist class or landlords (i.e., rentiers). The politics-first view, meanwhile, flattens out all of the complexity of classes into one-dimensional abstractions and crude dichotomies.

II. What is the Left?

Now I would like to address the question, “What is the left?” There are generally three answers one can give to this question.

The first answer is a historical one. Historically, “the left” was the revolutionary or progressive wing of the bourgeoisie or ascendant capitalist class that acted politically against the class of feudal landlords and monarchists in the great revolutions that defined the modern age of republics. The “right”, meanwhile, was the conservative or reactionary portion of the bourgeoisie, which wanted to preserve parts of the older institutions of the ancien régime and its privileges. And so, “left” and “right” are both dimensions contained within the movement of bourgeois republicanism, which is characterized by concerns about the public (political) and private (economic) spheres, citizenship, and civil rights and duties.

The second answer is an idealist one. Regarded as an idea or ideal, “the left” is whatever “good” or “progressive” policy one might like to advance at any given moment, which is contrasted to conservative or reactionary efforts to impede or reverse “progress”. This perspective concerns civil rights and is moral, rather than political, economic, or material. And it quickly succumbs to sophism and the fallacy of “no true Scotsman”. For example, one might say that the Soviet Union or China were or are not “true” or “real” socialism, because they failed to live up to whatever idea one might have of it. Similarly, one might say that the contemporary, actually existing left is not a “true” or “real left”, because it does not focus on whatever would make it a “true” or “real left”—and one might insert anything one likes here, from class and labor to gender and pronouns.

The third answer is the one I will argue for and which is informed by the economy-first view I have presented above. On this view, “the left” is the empirically existing group of people who call themselves “the left”; “leftism” is just whatever so-called “leftists” do. And those who call themselves “the left” can be situated in the framework of classes and subclasses presented above, as I will discuss shortly. Seen from an economy-first perspective, “the left” per se is not a coherent entity; every political group has a relatively left and right wing, just as every person has a left and a right hand. And it makes no more sense to speak of the left as a unified, coherent entity than it does to speak of “all the left hands” as though they constituted one body—because they do not.[12]Cf. L. Kolakowski, “The Concept of the Left”. “The left” is simply one half of a conceptual framework, a dichotomy of “left and right”, which one might try to use to understand the world of politics. It simply names various tendencies internal to modern, republican, bourgeois, liberal movements, which are ultimately based in classes and subclasses. We would be far better off if we understood the political landscape of the present with a trinitary conception: namely, conservatism, liberalism, and socialism—all of which overlap in some respects but differ significantly in other respects.[13]Cf. F.A. Hayek, “Why I am not a Conservative”: “The picture generally given of the relative position of the three parties does more to obscure than to elucidate their true relations. They are … Continue reading Seen from this perspective, the notion of “the left” is simply a confusing and confused way of looking at matters at best, or an ideological illusion caused by capitalist society at worst. And longing for “the Old Left” is on par with making birthday wishes. So, we’d be better served to simply distinguish socialism (“the Old Left”) from liberalism (“the New Left”) and fight for the former against the latter.

III. The Relation between Class and the Left

Now, finally, I’d like to try to answer the question, “What is the relation between class and the left?”, on the basis of what I have already presented.

If we are going to present a realistic and materialist answer to this question, it seems to me that we must claim that “the left” designates a politically activated portion of the unproductive and professional-managerial segment of the working class. Evidence of this claim can be found by looking at the political developments between 2016 and 2020 as well as the DSA. One need only consider who speaks up as the left, which subclasses they belong to, and consider their priorities—such as “sustainability” or “equity”—to see that “the left” is permeated by the class standpoint of underemployed clerks and managers, or wealthy professionals. “The left” advocates its own, very specific subclass interests: i.e., defund the police and create more jobs for teachers; create more human resources positions for diversity and implicit-bias seminars; create green energy that will provide monopoly rents for progressive rentiers. The peculiar character of the contemporary, actually-existing left has recently been called the “Brahmin left”, a coalition of both underemployed and incredibly wealthy, educated moral progressives and civil rights advocates, in contrast to a “Merchant right”, comprised of petit bourgeois Trump supporters.[14]Cf. Thomas Piketty’s 2021 paper, “Brahmin Left versus Merchant Right”. But I would suggest that it should simply be understood as what it has always been: radical liberalism. And I would also suggest that it cannot be “reformed” or made into whatever one might like it to be. It must simply be recognized as what it is, so that one can relate to it in a politically appropriate way.

To conclude, I would like to suggest that one does not have to be a Marxist. To be a Marxist is only to think that the explanation of capitalism that Marx presents is true. And one can disagree with Marx. But if one does call oneself a Marxist, then one should be clear about what the view is with which one purportedly agrees. Marx is clear that the appearance of a professional-managerial subclass which acts in its own specific political-economic interests is an effect of the financialization of modern capitalism. In this sense, I will leave you with several statements that deserve close consideration.

In volume III of Capital, Marx writes that the modern development of joint-stock companies requires the

transformation of the actual functioning capitalist into a mere manager, in charge of other people’s capital, and [the transformation] of the capital owner into a mere money capitalist [i.e. shareholder or absentee owner]”.

And in Theories of Surplus Value, he similarly writes:

What [Ricardo] forgets to emphasise is the constantly growing number of the middle classes, those who stand between the workman on the one hand and the capitalist and landlord on the other. The middle classes maintain themselves to an ever increasing extent directly out of revenue [i.e. they are an overhead cost, faux frais of production], they are a burden weighing heavily on the working base and increase the social security and power of the upper ten thousand. […]

… because of the growth in the net product, more spheres are opened up for unproductive workers, who live on [the productive laborer’s] product and whose interest in his exploitation coincides more or less with that of the directly exploiting classes.

Similarly, the Ehrenreichs describe the “professional-managerial class” as follows:

We define the Professional-Managerial Class as consisting of salaried mental workers who do not own the means of production and whose major function in the social division of labor may be described broadly as the reproduction of capitalist culture and capitalist class relations.[15]Barbara and John Ehrenreich, “The Professional-Managerial Class”, in Radical America. Vol. 11, no. 2, p. 13. “The very definition of the PMC — as a class concerned with the reproduction of … Continue reading

PMC class consciousness, with its ambiguous mixture of elitism and anti-capitalist militance… Expressions of it can be found in the ‘New Left’, the anti-war movement, all of which defied ‘the system’, but often with moralistic contempt for the working class. […] The university is the historical reproductive apparatus of the PMC and a historical center for the production of new knowledge, disciplines, techniques, heresies, etc.: both functions which have acquired a semblance of autonomy from capital. […] By the ‘New Left’ we mean the consciously anti-racist and anti-imperialist (and later, anti-capitalist) white movement, centered initially in the universities but ultimately extending well beyond them.[16]Ibid. “The New Left: A Case Study in Professional Managerial Class Radicalism”, in Radical America. Vol. 11, no. 3, p. 10.

Those who consider themselves Marxists and socialists would be well served to take this description of the contemporary left seriously. The path which the left has been on since the era in which C. Wright Mills suggested that perhaps students, young professionals, intellectuals, and writers ought to be considered to be the agent of political change, and that the working class is hardly so important politically, has proven disastrous. And there’s no getting ahead in a blind alley.


1 Cf. David Harvey, The Enigma of Capital (2010): “… multiculturalism can accommodate the ideal of equality between most self-identified social groups, [but] the one persistent divide that creates the greatest difficulty is that of class. This is so because class is the foundational inequality necessary to the reproduction of capitalism. […] Clearly, class identities [sic], like racial identities, are multiple and overlapping. I work as a laborer but have a pension fund that invests in the stock market and I own a house that I am improving with sweat equity and which I intend to sell for speculative gain. Does this make the concept of class incoherent? Class is a role, not a label that attaches to persons” (231-2).
2 Cf. Marx’s Manifesto: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”.
3 Cf. Marx’s Manifesto.
4 Cf. Leila Mechoui & Alexander McKay, “It’s the Petite Bourgeoisie, Stupid”.
5 Cf. Marx’s Manifesto: “Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other — Bourgeoisie and Proletariat”.
6 Cf. Marx’s Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy: “In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.

In studying such transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic – in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge such a period of transformation by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the conflict existing between the social forces of production and the relations of production. No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society”.

7 Karl Marx, Capital Volume I. Penguin Edition, p. 644, cf. p. 1044.
8 Cf. ibid., 450, 549-60, 986 ; volume III, 509-10.
9 Cf. Karl Marx, Capital Volume III. Penguin edition, chapter 48.
10 Cf. chapter XI of Karl Marx, Value, Price and Profit: “Rent, interest, and industrial profit are only different names for different parts of the surplus value of the commodity, or the unpaid labour enclosed in it, and they are equally derived from this source and from this source alone. They are not derived from land as such or from capital as such, but land and capital enable their owners to get their respective shares out of the surplus value extracted by the employing capitalist from the labourer. For the labourer himself it is a matter of subordinate importance whether that surplus value, the result of his surplus labour, or unpaid labour, is altogether pocketed by the employing capitalist, or whether the latter is obliged to pay portions of it, under the name of rent and interest, away to third parties. Suppose the employing capitalist to use only his own capital and to be his own landlord, then the whole surplus value would go into his pocket.

It is the employing capitalist who immediately extracts from the labourer this surplus value, whatever part of it he may ultimately be able to keep for himself. Upon this relation, therefore between the employing capitalist and the wages labourer the whole wages system and the whole present system of production hinge”.

11 Cf. part VII of volume I of Capital: The conversion of a sum of money [M] into means of production and labour-power [C], is the first step taken by the quantum of value that is going to function as capital. This conversion takes place in the market, within the sphere of circulation [M−C]. The second step, the process of production […P…], is complete so soon as the means of production have been converted into commodities [C′] whose value exceeds that of their component parts, and, therefore, contains the capital originally advanced, plus a surplus-value [M′]. These commodities must then be thrown into circulation. They must be sold, their value realised in money [C′−M′], this money afresh converted into capital, and so over and over again. This circular movement, in which the same phases are continually gone through in succession, forms the circulation of capital. […] The capitalist who produces surplus-value — i.e., who extracts unpaid labour directly from the labourers, and fixes it in commodities, is, indeed, the first appropriator, but by no means the ultimate owner, of this surplus-value. He has to share it with capitalists, with landowners, &c., who fulfil other functions in the complex of social production. Surplus-value, therefore, splits up into various parts. Its fragments fall to various categories of persons, and take various forms, independent the one of the other, such as profit, interest, merchants’ profit, rent, &c. It is only in Book III. that we can take in hand these modified forms of surplus-value”. Cf. chapter 1 of volume II of Capital (M−C…P…C′−M′). Cf. chapter 4 of volume I of Capital: “This increment or excess over the original value I call “surplus-value.” The value originally advanced, therefore, not only remains intact while in circulation, but adds to itself a surplus-value or expands itself. It is this movement that converts it into capital. […] [Value] is constantly changing from one form to the other without thereby becoming lost, and thus assumes an automatically active character. If now we take in turn each of the two different forms which self-expanding value successively assumes in the course of its life, we then arrive at these two propositions: Capital is money: Capital is commodities. In truth, however, value is here the active factor in a process, in which, while constantly assuming the form in turn of money and commodities, it at the same time changes in magnitude, differentiates itself by throwing off surplus-value from itself; the original value, in other words, expands spontaneously. […] Value therefore now becomes value in process, money in process, and, as such, capital. It comes out of circulation, enters into it again, preserves and multiplies itself within its circuit, comes back out of it with expanded bulk, and begins the same round ever afresh. M−M′, money which begets money, such is the description of Capital from the mouths of its first interpreters, the Mercantilists”.
12 Cf. L. Kolakowski, “The Concept of the Left”.
13 Cf. F.A. Hayek, “Why I am not a Conservative”: “The picture generally given of the relative position of the three parties does more to obscure than to elucidate their true relations. They are usually represented as different positions on a line, with the socialists on the left, the conservatives on the right, and the liberals somewhere in the middle. Nothing could be more misleading. If we want a diagram, it would be more appropriate to arrange them in a triangle with the conservatives occupying one corner, with the socialists pulling toward the second and the liberals toward the third. But, as the socialists have for a long time been able to pull harder, the conservatives have tended to follow the socialist rather than the liberal direction and have adopted at appropriate intervals of time those ideas made respectable by radical propaganda. It has been regularly the conservatives who have compromised with socialism and stolen its thunder. Advocates of the Middle Way with no goal of their own, conservatives have been guided by the belief that the truth must lie somewhere between the extremes — with the result that they have shifted their position every time a more extreme movement appeared on either wing”.
14 Cf. Thomas Piketty’s 2021 paper, “Brahmin Left versus Merchant Right”.
15 Barbara and John Ehrenreich, “The Professional-Managerial Class”, in Radical America. Vol. 11, no. 2, p. 13. “The very definition of the PMC — as a class concerned with the reproduction of capitalist culture and class relationship — precludes treating it as a separate sociological entity. It is in a sense a derivative class; its existence presupposes : (1) that the social surplus has developed to a point sufficient to sustain the PMC in addition to the bourgeoisie, for the PMC is essentially nonproductive; and (2) that the relationship between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat has developed to the point that a class specializing in the reproduction of capitalist class relationships becomes a necessity to the capitalist class. That is, the maintenance of order can no longer be left to episodic police violence” (ibid., p. 15). “The interdependent yet antagonistic relationship between the work­ing class and the PMC also leads us to insist that the PMC is a class totally distinct from the petit bourgeoisie (the “old middle class” of artisans, shopkeepers, self-employed professionals and independent farmers). The classical petit bourgeoisie lies outside the polarity of labor and capital. It is made up of people who are neither employed by capital nor themselves employers of labor to any significant extent. The PMC, by contrast, is employed by capital and it manages, controls, has authority over labor (though it does not directly employ it). The classical petit bourgeoisie is irrelevant to the process of capital accumulation and to the process of reproducing capitalist social relations. The PMC, by contrast, is essential to both” (ibid., p. 18).
16 Ibid. “The New Left: A Case Study in Professional Managerial Class Radicalism”, in Radical America. Vol. 11, no. 3, p. 10.

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