The Growth of Nations and Class Conflict

Spandrell has a piece on economic growth in China, and how it plays out in a highly nepotistic country. He has an aside on Steve Sailer’s bit on the ethnicity of the serving class.

Economic growth is great. Everybody gets more, and what is almost as important, possibly more, is that everybody expects to get more. Hope is a very powerful emotion. Americans believed for a long time that their children would improve upon their own standing in life. If you are successful, you can hope your children will be big shots or Ivy Leaguers. If you live in the shame and disappointment of poverty or a meager living, you can hope they will have middle-class respectability.

This however obviously can’t go on forever. It’s a pyramid scheme, and these always end if grief. Spandrell speculates the Chinese pyramid scheme is coming to an end. I believe the American pyramid scheme, which ran well for centuries, ended around 1970, was sustained by credit for another 30 years, and now is clearly collapsing, an upward mobility is gone. In the case of China, one result is mass emigration. Americans don’t have this option in large numbers. A few have specialized skills to leave, but that is a tiny minority. And frankly leaving other than for a lot of money is probably not worth the trouble.

Once upward mobility is exhausted, the possibility of downward mobility comes up, and since people of higher classes tend to dislike the lower classes, this is very uncomfortable to them. Sailer attributes the greater comfort upper-class people have with Hispanic service people to cultural differences; Spandrell to the reminder of the possibility of downward mobility.

I think it’s some combination, with other things added. White service people usually make decent money and have a standard of living that compares well with what we call the middle and even upper-middle class. They don’t make as much money, but they don’t have to spend money on things like cars, clothes and travel that are necessary to show middle-class status. Although a plumber might make as much as a primary car doctor.

It’s humiliating for middle-class people to be around such people, because they are a lot more carefree. Middle-class people like to think their college education makes them more affluent and important members of society, but the presence of people who don’t give a crap about such things and enjoy life without worrying about how they look is galling. If you have a couple plumbers in your house talking about their weekend at the lake on their jetskis, they are reminded that these people have a lot of disposable income and free time, and while a yuppie would not enjoy a weekend at the lake on a jet ski, drinking domestic beer and barbecuing, he knows the proles are having more fun than him, and he hates it.

Ben Affleck made some movie about a yuppie who gets laid off and has to work construction for his brother, and the humiliation he experiences. But this guy- an increasingly rare creature these days, as yuppies now rarely have blue-collar relatives they can turn to for work- was lucky. Downward mobility for a college graduate means working at Starbucks.

Orwell talked about this in “The Road to Wigan Pier”. He noted that there was a low stratum of English middle-class people who made little more than working-class people, but were further stressed by the need to spend money on things like having a servant. He thought such people should can the pretense and unite politically with the working-class. Why he would think this could be done I don’t know. He pointed out in the same book that the working-class had much different manners, including a contemptuous rejection of middle-class customs like politeness. Middle-class people don’t want to go down, and even if they do the working-class doesn’t want their company.

Emigration has been a way to slough off unwanted people for some centuries now. Europe got rid of huge numbers of unneeded agricultural workers in the 1800’s. Mexico has done the same recently. China and India have exported many middle-class people who lacking connections, or wanting to make better use of their connections went elsewhere. America now has a lot of people who think they are middle-class, but other than a useless degree and a huge student loan debt, have nothing to prove it.

Class in America is largely a matter of education. The marginal middle-class of Orwell’s England was born to that class, but maintained that status by education. Status being as important to people as it is, people will continue to pay for useless education at resident colleges even if it makes no financial sense.

Marginally middle-class people can’t maintain or improve their economic position, although they can maintain some illusion of class by attending college. Stable middle- and upper middle-class people can deal with class stress by using immigrant service people and tradesman. Downward mobility won’t even help the marginal middle-class, because well-paying trades jobs are not that easy to come by, the people who work in them don’t want them around (whether they are Hispanic or white) and they aren’t suited for them.

Germans solve this by training bright youngsters in manufacturing skills. Germany is an international powerhouse in high-level manufacturing, as is Japan, which is not supposed to be possible in high-wage countries. In Germany or Japan a bright, quiet but well-spoken young man can be a technician. But America is an English country, and in English countries the intelligent and well-spoken can hold no tool in their hands other than a pen. Manual work of whatever sophistication has to be done by uncouth people who should be paid as little as possible.

I think this kind of artificial split is the source of a lot of class hatred in England because of this, and this is what caused Marx to theorize a worldwide revolution of the working class. I don’t think he understood that despite such resentment, the working class in England doesn’t want to be middle-class, in fact is kind of happy not to be, and this divide doesn’t exist in most other societies.

The US is very Anglo-centric; it is assumed the Anglo way of doing things is best and all other countries need to be brought around to it. This has happened to a great extent, as Moldbug describes. But this artificial divide, with a meddling middle class of respectable Methodist clerks, is both extremely inefficient and frankly ridiculous. Orwell wanted to eliminate it as part of a communist revolution; better just to dispose of it to have a more humane society.

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About thrasymachus33308

I like fast cars, fast women and southern-fried rock. I have an ongoing beef with George Orwell. I take my name from a character in Plato's "Republic" who was exasperated with the kind of turgid BS that passed for deep thought and political discourse in that time and place, just as I am today. The character, whose name means "fierce fighter" was based on a real person but nobody knows for sure what his actual political beliefs were. I take my pseudonym from a character in an Adam Sandler song who was a obnoxious jerk who pissed off everybody.
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11 Responses to The Growth of Nations and Class Conflict

  1. Oswald Spengler, either in Hour of Decision or Prussianism and Socialism, said that German and English peoples are distinct in that the Germans consider hard work good, whereas the English shun all work as evil. I’m guessing that pencil pushing, academia, and piracy (whether viking or Puritan or Wall Street) aren’t considered work since they involve sitting around telling other people what to do, or highly exciting, dangerous, and profitable violence.

    Americans in white collar positions really do dislike proles (i.e., blue collar whites). Even the office monkey screwing around on the internet for 90% of his shift considers himself infinitely superior to the tradesman who actually has to work. HalfSigma considers prole behavior something to be avoided at all costs, and it sounds like it’s viscerally offensive to him. Part of this is jewish condescension towards the goyim, but the attitude is hardly exclusive to jews. Blacks and hispanics don’t really get the same hatred. They’re either objects of charity, or wild animals one should best avoid. But, not this revolting, declasse canaille that drinks beer by the thirty rack, drives pickup trucks, and owns tools.

  2. joetexx says:

    Recall the esteemed Jehu at Chariot of Reaction, on the phenomenon
    of the smart redneck.

    My experience is that when the overeducated upper and middle classes actually meet such people they can’t help liking and admiring them.

    But they wouldn’t dream of encouraging their own children to be like them.

    @Cyprian K:

    Spengler makes a snarky remark somewhere on the meaning of “freedom” in English. Uncle Oswald seems to have read it as simply irresponsible aversion to being ordered around.

    Elsewhere he contrasts the English and German conceptions of the strong, resourceful man. To the English he is the Viking, the pirate, and in later stages the entrepreneur. To the German, he is the Knight, who may be harsh and brutal but has a sense of care and responsibility for the polity.

  3. Heil Hizzle says:

    I think the only way out of the whole class nightmare is pretty much a solution that you hinted at in this fine post. If you remember Paul Fussell’s “Class” (a bombshell of a book that is still exploding), he ridiculed almost every caste save the ultra-rich and the destitute, as obsessed by trivial pretensions.

    The solution is abdication, or “Class X” as Fussell called it, a group of people not easily identifiable as belonging to any one class. This might be someone who has hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings, yet drives a 1990 Honda and has a self-sustaining farm and pasteurizing operation, or a fellow who was an enlisted man in the military yet speaks four languages and can play a lute, or something to that effect.

    “The X’s occupy the one social place in the U.S.A. where the ethic of buying and selling is not all-powerful:”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/03/class-dismissed/307274/#

    • I read that years ago and the X class is in effect what we today call SWPLs, people who claim not to care about class but really do. Classes are an inescapable feature of any society, and trying to eliminate them is impossible. What we need to do is have mutual respect and cooperation between classes.

      • Heil Hizzle says:

        Eerily enough, I had begun watching “Upstairs, Downstairs” on Netflix a day or two before this post went up. You can’t really call America a part of the anglosphere, since they admit they have a rigid caste system as a matter of fact, while Americans will still try to hedge and equivocate for the most part.

  4. PA says:

    There seems to be a split in white working classes at least in the mid-Atlantic: white trash vs working class. The former are marked by niggerish affectations, particularly in speech, and in listening to black music. There seems to be less of them now than ten years ago though. The latter, who are thankfully more numerous, have redneck culture. They listen to rock, have fuller heads of hair, don’t dress and act whigger.

  5. fnn says:

    Former PM John Major quite an anomaly:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Major#Early_life

    Major was born at the St. Helier Hospital in Sutton, Surrey, the son of Gwen Major and former Music Hall performer Tom Major-Ball (né Abraham Thomas Ball), who was 64 years old when John was born.

    Major left school at age 16 in 1959, with three O-levels: History, English Language, and English Literature. He later gained three more O-levels by correspondence course, in the British Constitution, mathematics and economics. His first job was as a clerk in the insurance brokerage firm Pratt & Sons in 1959. Disliking this job, he quit, and for a time he helped with his father’s garden ornaments business along with his brother, Terry Major-Ball. Major joined the Young Conservatives in Brixton at this time.[5] Major was 19 years old when in 1962 his father died at the age of 83. His mother died eight years later at the age of 65.
    After Major became prime minister, it was misreported that he had failed to get a job as a bus conductor because of failing a maths test, when in fact he passed all of the tests, but had been passed over for the job to another candidate owing to his height.[6][7]

  6. spandrell says:

    A couple of years ago China reached a funny milestone: new college graduates’ average salary became roughly the same as that of peasant migrant workers. Which is to say 200 USD a month. So nobody’s going jetskiing, yet the college grads do feel the need to buy fancy clothes. The migrants have to send money to their parents in the village, so in the end everybody eats the same shit and rides the same buses.

    It’s no wonder that the educated yearn to migrate to the anglosphere, where education still kinda counts.

    • Candide III says:

      Yes, there was a WSJ article on the Chinese new graduate glut. Reading it, I got the impression that their average salary is low because there’s too few appropriate positions open and they end up working in Chinese equivalents of Starbucks, same as the migrant peasants.

      • spandrell says:

        Peasants do manual labor, construction for men and sweatshops for women. Which is tough, and the new young cohort born after the reforms aren’t cut for it, so the pay is growing quickly.
        The college grads want office jobs, and they get them. But there’s too many people, and big companies in China scale too well. There’s just so many banks and ad agencies. So there’s pervasive underemployment. The way tax code works also means it makes it’s cheaper to hire 3 kids for 2000 each than 1 kid for 6000.

  7. asdf says:

    One reason Americans don’t like proles is that they have terrible manners. They are loud, loutish, ill mannered, and ugly (being fat is like the greatest class sin ever). In short they are really unpleasent to be around. This wasn’t always the case, and it isn’t the case in many countries (in Japan the proles are very well behaved).

    Somewhere along the line proles went from acting like Hank Hill to acting like Bill Doughtrief. When I encounter Hank Hill types I tend to like them more then SWPLs, but they are a rarer breed today. If I have to choose between douchebag proles and SWPLs its usually more enjoyable to be around SWPLs (or simply cacoon away from all these assholes).

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