Thursday, April 30, 2009

Class Distinction: Shadowy Lines that Still Divide

The notion that the class distinction has ceased to exist in the modern American society must be dispelled in the face of reality on the ground. Those who feel that the American society is heading towards classlessness are indeed laboring under huge misimpression. According to Janny Scott and David Leonhardt the American society still remains class oriented and divided into three main classes.

The rich continue to enjoy the best in health care and education whereas the others remain far under privileged. This gives the rich a clear cut edge over others in the society. Although, globalization and modernization have improved the living standard of the present generation, it has certainly not finished the class distinction.


In fact the chasm between the rich, the middle class and the working class has increased manifold in the present time. The social and cultural gap between the classes has also become wider than ever before. The comparative prosperity of the middle and the working class has led to the blurring of the boundaries that clearly divided the American society in the past; but it doesn’t mean that these boundaries don’t exist.

According to Marx and Engels the class struggle is ancient in character. History is a testimony to the fact that man has always oppressed his fellow men in one way or another. They interpret that the society can be chiefly divided into two distinct classes: the bourgeois and the proletarian. The bourgeois represent the rich and the powerful industrialist class in the league of past feudal lords. The proletarian class consists of the modern working or the labor class.

The advent of modern industry made the bourgeois more powerful and exploitative than ever before. Marx considers the executive government nothing else but a handmaiden of the bourgeois and an instrument of oppression. Modernization, free trade and world market are nothing else but symbols of unending bourgeois’ greed and avarice.

Marx believes that the bourgeoisie has no morals, scruples or ethics. The bourgeois class is selfish, utilitarian and capitalistic. The bourgeoisie promoted urbanization as a ploy to make the peasants subservient to and dependent upon the cities. The bourgeoisie frames laws and rules to perpetuate its class domination and to protect its class interest. The working class is deliberately kept at the receiving end. They are given subsistence wages and commandeered by the bourgeoisie like slaves.

Scott and Leonhardt feel that it is erroneous to think that the chances of class mobility have increased in the present. According to them, it has been proved that the opportunities to climb the ladder of success for the middle and the working classes have considerably dwindled in the recent times. The American dream is a myth and on its way out. The mobility from rags to riches has become quite unthinkable and improbable.


One must wake up to the fact that in spite of apparent contradictions, the rich continue to grow richer at much faster pace than ever before. The class situation in modern America is extremely complex and quite misleading. It cannot be gauged or judged on the basis of traditional concepts of class division.

Marx and Engels blame the bourgeoisie for keeping the labor class on tenterhooks. Machinery and automation have made the working class vulnerable and constantly exposed to the threat of unemployment. The bourgeoisie treats the labor class as a mere commodity or as an article of sale and purchase.

Marx feels that the bourgeois class is destructive towards its own lower rung also. The small tradesmen and shopkeepers sink into the proletariat class because of their economic weakness and inability to keep pace with modern industry. The hostility between classes is natural and perennial. The proletariat class must reclaim its rightful place through a concerted effort.

Marx treats the proletariat as a revolutionary class with a lot of grit and courage to stand up against the injustice done by the bourgeoisie. He strongly feels that the proletariat must organize itself into a union and then into a political party to end the bourgeoisie dominance. He is positive that the proletariat class can never find justice under the unjust yoke of the bourgeoisie where the rich keeps getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer or pauper.

It is abundantly clear that the lines that divide society may be hazy or shadowy today but their grip on the society is as strong as ever; only it has become a bit hard to decipher.

Works Cited
Scott, Janny and David Leonhardt. Class Matters. New York: The New York Times, 2005
Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. New York: Penguin Classics, 2002

Academic Help

2 comments:

Dorothy L said...

Very interesting thoughts. I do agree...what is happening now is that the classes of people are simply becoming more clearly defined.

The economy is the biggest movement supporting this....then we can break that down to the greed of the people ect.

~D~

Academic said...

Hi Dorothy,

Good to find you on the same wavelength. You will agree that capitalism needs class distinction to survive and flourish.

There is hardly any reason to expect that class distinction would cease to exist in such a crass utilitarian setup.

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