I used to have a pinback button displaying that slogan. Or maybe it was “Marxists”. “Do It”, of course, refers to theorizing about social structure, right? So let’s get it done.
I’ll start with an excerpt from a speech last December by that renowned social theorist and presidential wannabee, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida):
The existence of a large and vibrant American middle class goes to the very essence of America’s exceptional identity….But only a few places have achieved a vibrant and stable middle class. And in the history of the world, none has been more vibrant and more stable than the American middle class….One of the fundamental promises of America is the opportunity to make it to the middle class….And millions of Americans worry that they may never achieve middle class prosperity…The key to a vibrant middle class is an abundance of jobs that pay enough…the weakened American economy is not creating enough jobs of any kind, especially middle class jobs….The path to a prosperous and growing American middle class is the combination of a vibrant economy that creates middle class jobs…Federal policies on the national debt, taxes and regulations all have a tremendous impact on economic growth and middle class job creation….Our complicated and uncertain tax code is also hindering the creation of middle class jobs….And excessive regulations are impeding middle class job creation too….These are just the type of jobs we need most right now: well-paying, middle class work….
He went on to say “middle class” seventeen more times in that speech. But he’s not alone in reciting that mantra. American politicians of all parties keep prattling on ad nauseum about their devotion to the middle class, to the point where that categorization has been stripped of any meaning.
As a recent article in USA Today put it,
Everybody loves the middle class. President Obama mentioned it a half-dozen times in his State of the Union address this year, and House Speaker John Boehner recently told Obama to “stand up for middle-class jobs.” Pundits cheer the middle class. Politicians praise its virtues. Google says it has been called the “backbone of the country” at least 2.3 million times. From gridlocked Washington to cities and town everywhere, the middle class is far and away America’s favorite socioeconomic group.
Yet no one can agree on what, exactly, the middle class is. Economists and sociologists say that’s a big deal. Decisions are made, laws are written and elections are won or lost based on people’s beliefs about the middle class and what it means to the country. A nation that so values the middle class, they say, really should be better at defining it.
I would agree. Unfortunately, on the left there’s often a similar lack of clarity. For example, what does “We are the 99%” mean? And exactly who is the remaining 1%? Are 308 million Americans on one side and 3 million on the other?
Given all that has been written on the subject of social class, and certainly not just by socialists, I doubt if anything I say would be particularly original. And I don’t want to turn this into an academic lecture. So I will just make some modest and concise observations and, as always, your comments are very much welcomed. (To be continued)