Sunday, May 02, 2010

Making the Working Class Support the Ruling Class

American financier Jay Gould, after hiring strikebreakers, famously quipped; "I can hire one-half of the working class to kill the other half." Indeed. But you can go further - you can get one section of the working class and convince them that it is in their interests to support policies that either don't benefit them or worse still, make their lives worse. We see this with health care in the US, for example. This quote sums this idea up.. (Something to note in elections!)
Thomas Frank has written brilliantly about the paradox of blue collar Republicanism, a politics driven by class resentment which ironically plays directly into the hands of the class oppressors. Two female rock stars share a lascivious kiss on television, Frank writes, and virtuous voters are so outraged that they rush out and vote the rock stars a big tax reduction. They’ve lost their job security, so they elect the handmaidens of the very people who outsourced their jobs and broke their unions. It’s like something that the mythical authors of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion might have dreamed up. “The principal object of our directorate,” its narrator declared, “consists in this: to debilitate the public mind… lead it away from serious reflections calculated to arouse resistance; to distract the forces of the mind towards a sham fight of empty eloquence.”

Enter Glenn Beck, talking.

PS. I'm not quoting the shit that is the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion without irony - the quote was cited by a writer on conspiracy theories, who debunks them over and over.


Anonymous said...

The irony is incredible, I agree.

I grew up in a fairly working class area in Melbourne - a suburb called Dandenong. I was struck by the inherent conservatism and mistrust of "elites" and " university educated w@nkers" that many people held instinctively. I remember in my final year at high school when I was going to go to university many of my peers said "Why would you bother going back to school? Haven't you had a enough?"

Thank goodness I did go.

This kind of anti-intellectualism is in some respects an envy for the opportunity that many people of don't have. It is also something the Glenn Beck's play up. The irony is that so many of those ideologues come from upper middle-class or patrician backgrounds and are college educated. However, they don't' trust the "mob" will know how to handle information that contradicts conservative/right wing values.

For example: conservative often argue religion is necessary to "keep those people in check". Whether or not a supernatural deity exists is beside the point.

People "must" believe their actions are being monitored all the time by a great big invisible security camera in the sky. Otherwise - goes the argument - they will rape, kill and steal without compunction. It denies the possibility that individuals can be autonomous moral agents. Better to keep them in check with the opiate of the masses. "Without God, everything is permissible" goes the claim (natch, what I call the Dostoevsky gambit).

Seems they'd rather have the "poor" kept ill-informed.

Ben said...

This blind spot regarding capitalism is also the genesis of a lot of conspiracies. Capitalism is intrinsically authoritarian, and often acts in a very conspiritorial way, but at the same time, posits its version of freedom - consumer choice, as the totality of freedom.

This is something that's been there from the start. Foucault, for instance, labels the entire bourgeois project under 'panopticism'; the panopticon being a kind of circular prison that both separates its inmates and allows their observation. i.e. liberal society is modelled on a prison.

Because of the identification of capitalism with freedom, this authoritarianism is overlooked. However, people do become aware of their unfree status and lack of control. But the blind spot means that they always look outside capitalism for its source. This is borne out by one of the common features of modern conspiracy theories - e.g. those concerning climate change or social medicine - it is always the individual as consumer that is threatened.