Mayonnaise and the Middle Class

Mayonnaise and the Middle Class

by Susan Rosenthal

According to the 2006 General Social Survey, most Americans think society is structured like a giant football, with a small group of rich people at one end, a small group of poor people at the other end, and the majority filling out the middle.

In reality, society is a social pyramid, much like the typical workplace. There is a boss at the top (the capitalist class) followed by a layer of managers or supervisors (the middle class). The majority do the actual work (the working class), with a portion of the workforce being unemployed at any given time (the poor). The capitalist class and the working class have opposite goals and conflicting values:

  • Bosses want workers to produce more and faster. Workers want to slow down to preserve their health.
  • Bosses want lower wages so they can boost profits. Workers want higher wages so they can pay their bills.
  • The drive for profit shapes values of the capitalist class – greed, corruption, and the hunger for power.
  • Mutual dependence shapes the values of the working class – solidarity (an injury to one is an injury to all) and self-determination (what we wish for ourselves, we want for all).

The capitalist class and the working class are like oil and water. So what prevents them from flying apart?

The capitalist class employs a managerial middle class to keep workers under control. Like the egg that holds oil and water together in mayonnaise, the middle class functions like an emulsifier, binding workers and capitalists in the social arrangement of capitalism.

At work, middle-class managers impose the will of the boss on the workers. In society, the middle class imposes the will of the capitalist class on the working class.

The middle class functions as the loyal lieutenant of capitalism. When working people rebel, the middle class condemns their demands as “unrealistic” and preaches compromise so as not to offend the powers-that-be.

Without the middle class, the other two classes would battle for social control, and the advantage would go to the working class with its superior numbers and its hands on the wheels of production.

As long as the working-class majority does not believe in itself, it will accept the rule of the middle and upper classes. But as soon as that changes, capitalism will be thrown into the air. As the working class takes control of the economy, it will build a completely new society, a socialist society based on real democracy, solidarity and self-determination.

See also A Social Definition of Class and Professional Poison: How Professionals Sabotage Social Movements, and Why Workers Should Lead Our Fight.

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Rudy O Says:

    April 25/07

    I can see this dynamic played-out in my workplace; middle-management carrying out the agenda of the few who have placed themselves at the top. The workers themselves are disposable; really to my mind, are treated as worthless.

    A juggernaut that stands in the way of organizing the workers here is that each of the individual bosses and managers has their own loyal following of workers.

    Management has a kind of social-cunning that doles out a sense of belonging (we are all friends here), and dispenses favours. People are actually devoted to a particular boss or manager, even though they and their fellow workers are being abused in so many ways.

    Workers are squeezed out after long years of service, not retrained after they suffer repetitive strain injuries, and refused requests to move into different departments or different types of labour. These are just a few examples of the bad treatment they suffer.

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