The New Nobility Uses Political Correctness to Fragment the Precariats

I have long held that our economy is, stripped of propaganda, nothing but an updated version of feudalism, i.e. neofeudal: a vast class of precarious laborers (i.e. precariats–precarious proletariats) who own little to no wealth-producing capital ruled by a New Nobility/Oligarchy that owns the vast majority of wealth-producing capital and control of the political system.

I explained this structure in America’s Nine Classes: The New Class Hierarchy (April 29, 2014),Neofeudalism 101: Strip-Mining the Upper Middle Class (April 8, 2015) and The Class War Has Already Started (November 14, 2015).

In the Marxist analysis, there are only three classes: those who must sell their labor to earn a livelihood, those who earn their livelihood from owning wealth-generating capital, and the dispossessed/ marginalized who are dependent on the state (bread and circuses) or who scrape out a living on the margins of the lawful economy.

In this view, there is no meaningful class difference between the well-paid liberal technocrat with the $1 million (mortgaged) house on the Left/Right Coast and the rural conservative “deplorable” wage earner. Both must sell their labor and neither earns a livelihood from wealth-generating capital.

If we extend this analysis, we find that the entire self-described “middle class” is in fact nothing but the better paid slice of the working class, i.e. the class who must sell their labor to pay their rent/mortgage, buy food, etc.

Both are precarious, but not equally so. The well-paid technocrat believes his skills will protect him from unemployment, and he is equally confident that the “wealth” in his mortgaged house and stocks/bonds 401K retirement account is secure and permanent.

He feels superior to the “deplorable” wage earner, but this superiority is contingent on 1) asset bubbles never popping (ahem, which they always do, eventually; 2) software that’s eating the world will not eat his job or the premium he is currently being paid, and 3) the skills he currently has won’t become over-supplied as the global work force expands into the sectors that require high levels of education.

So what inhibits the awareness of shared class membership and interests? Two dynamics come to mind: the liberal/conservative ideological divide, and the politically correct speech acts that differentiate the two.

The urban liberal technocrat feels morally superior to the “deplorable” wage earner because he 1) considers himself a “winner” and the “deplorable” a loser and 2) he has mastered the politically correct speech acts that signify his superior “progressive” status.

There are two ironies in this presumed superiority:

1. The urban liberal technocrat is one credit/asset crash and one pink slip away from a rapid and catastrophic decline in living standards to “loser” status

2. Making politically correct speech acts the defining factor in establishing moral and political superiority depreciates the “difficult” (costly) act of actually behaving morally with the “easy” (cheap) act of mouthing sanctimonious politically correct signifier phrases.

Anyone can repeat politically correct signifier phrases; it takes no effort, risk, commitment or sacrifice. Actually acting in a sustained, coherent, morally superior fashion takes real effort, risk, commitment and sacrifice, and results in a healthy sense of humility, for no human can be saintly all the time.

The problem with acting in a sustained, coherent, morally superior fashion is that you won’t get public credit for being a morally superior “winner.” Acting in accordance with high moral standards is a private compact one makes with oneself; it is not a public display broadcast with the intent of establishing “progressive” political correct credentials.

This elevation of “cheap” and “easy” politically correct speech acts depreciates moral behavior to zero and enables the media-savvy Nobility to effortlessly divide and conquer the laboring class. In effect, the liberal technocrat laboring class submits to its own exploitation because our Nobility uses politically correct phrases in their public utterances.

One of the oldest control techniques is divide and conquer, and political correctness is an incredibly cheap and effective way to fragment the laboring class into subclasses who have been manipulated into declaring war on each other.

Combine identity politics with political correctness, and the New Nobility/Oligarchy can laugh their way to the bank while their pawn-serfs fight over how many politically correct angels can dance on the head of a pin.

As noted above, the class war started long before Trump won the election. This Class War is illustrated by this chart: a tiny financial-political Elite (the top 1/10th of 1%) now own as much wealth as the bottom 90%:

The absurd elevation of politically correct speech acts that anyone in the New Nobility can utter with practiced ease has a curiously profitable result for the New Nobility: the urban liberal Precariat willingly embraces his/her servitude and despises his/her fellow Precariats, thereby serving the interests of the New Nobility while fragmenting the only truly progressive class identity.

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  • Ivan_K

    CHS: As shown in the first illustration, the old nobility was leading by example by risking their lives in armed conflicts, and directly dealing with their inferiors
    And the serfs had rights which were at times more secure than ours. The lord couldn’t kick out the serf from his property, which means the serf had guaranteed employment and roof over head.
    So, regarding matters of social status, we’re worse off than the feudal serfs.

    You know who else is better off than us? Kalahari bushmen, apparently, according to anthropologist Helga Vierich’s comments.

    • diogenes

      As Ivan says, serfs had the MOST significant basic right — the right to access to livelihood — what “life” means in the phrase “live, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The only people in America who have a genuine “right” to livelihood are those whose capital holdings grant them, by a legal fiction created by corrupt legislators and enforced at the barrel of a gun, to extract the the labor of others for their their own predacious benefit.

      If Smith read Michael Hudson he would know that Marx’s analysis was left behind more than 120 years ago, and supplanted by Veblen’s. Who says as much.

  • animalogic

    This is a great article. The middle classes ( as this article suggests) are a difficult area of analysis. Firstly, the middle class tends to blur into the upper or lower classes at its edges. (At what point does an executive – ie a wage earner – enter into the upper class ? Income ? Wealth held in shares, other assets ?) Can self identification with the working class “make” you working class ?
    What role now should/does a socialist intelligentsia (ie educated middle class) play in working -class political action ?
    Most importantly, to what extent does the working class REQUIRE the support of elements of the middle classes before it can successfully take control of the State ? And what degree of economic decay/class exploitation must exist before large parts of the middle classes would begin the fight for a democratic socialism based on the theories of Karl Marx ?

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