Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Let's Face It, We're A Multi-Class Society Now

Economic growth has meant that in the developed world there are now more classes of people. Take Britain and America as prime cases in point. While the majority of the population were once easily categorised as either upper or lower class (with middle coming later), nowadays the elite and the upper class have split, as have the middle class, where we now have the traditional group and a new group that extends all the way into numerous tenets of the white collar groups.
Then there is a large group of factory workers and service-industry workers, and an even larger group of low-skilled workers whose wages need to be topped up with government in-work benefits. Lastly, there is a large group of the very poorest in society - those relying on welfare, and those for whom the prospect of a job is pretty narrow.

The reason we have more class groups (if it's even helpful to use the word 'class') is because we have more levels of industry and an increased range of working groups with varying skill requirements. This has a twofold bearing (or should do) on people in terms of progress. In the first place, the brightest, most talented and most aspirational in any group can more easily ascend upwards to the next most desirable group.

And in the second place, despite popular perceptions to the contrary, the people to be most concerned about are not the people several groups up from you, but the people competing with you in your group.

In other words, if you're in the low-skilled group your biggest rivals in the labour market are other people in your group. If a low-skilled immigrant comes into the UK and joins the job market, he doesn't disadvantage Alan Sugar or James Dyson, he disadvantages fellow immigrants and low-skilled British people.

The other factor beneficial to growth is that this new look economy has a lot more competition as businesses from all groups are competing with one another to improve the goods and services they provide.

The other system of demarcation is found in a natural caste system of establishment power. It used to be that the hierarchy consisted of military power, government power (most notably, the civil service), business power, and then cascading down to civilian power.

Given that the civilian group is always the largest group, there needs to be either a force of oppression to maintain the power, or in the case of a more modern parliamentary system a voluntary delegation of power.
The main change in order over the centuries is that while military power used to have leadership over government (and in some cases be the same thing), now elected governments have more authority than the military. In many prosperous countries the role of business is becoming ever-more influential in the state of affairs too.

You'll find that while in places like Europe and America this system has been well established for many decades (nearly three centuries in Europe, about half that time in America) other places throughout the world don't have such stability, as military dominance and (often corrupt) political governance are two wings of the same oppression.
For example, in places like Burma and North Korea and Pakistan the military oppression of its citizens is concomitant with governmental powers, as is the case in some African countries. In other African and Middle Eastern countries, the military/government duality of rule is underpinned by theocratic influences too, making the situation even more oppressive and totalitarian for the majority of its citizens.

The emergence of a multi-class society goes hand in hand with an emergent economy, where economic growth has engendered increased prosperity (in absolute gains) for almost everybody in this country. A couple of hundred years ago, almost everybody in the country was desperately poor. Now almost nobody is desperately poor.
It is because fewer and fewer people are desperately poor that we have a multi-class society, with at least two tiers of the middle class, and emergent services workers and an affluent working class group all doing better than ever. There's still a lot of hardship in society, but a multi-class society is one of those human constructs of demarcation to illustrate how life has got so much better for large proportions of society.