The new class war, from economics to identity

Andrew Bushnell at the IPA shared a piece by Roger Scruton on the persistence of the class divide in Britain.

The theme of the piece is the way that class consciousness persisted as a moral or psychological category regardless of economic circumstances. The example is Roger Scruton’s father who came from the Manchester slums and escaped into school-teaching via the Air Force. Soon he was married with a house, mortgage and children in the local grammar school. To all intents he was in the middle class but that was not how he thought of himself.

He retained the class-consciousness into which he had been born. As far as he was concerned, he was working class through and through. He spoke with a Manchester accent, supported Manchester United, was a paid-up member of the Labour Party, and also secretary of his local branch of the National Union of Teachers. In all political conflicts, he was on the side of the Trades Union Congress, whatever it decided.

In addition he thought the country was run by public (private) school boys and there would be no social justice until their privileges are abolished.

It seems that the political landscape is changing rapidly since the character of leftwing activism pivoted away from the economic aspects of the old class divide and took a turn to cultural criticism that has nothing to offer the working class (blue collar Labor supporters) or those like Scruton’s father who have risen in the world and wear white collars but still think in terms of the old categories.

Andrew Norton signalled this development in a post on Catallaxy some years ago when he noted a shift in the leftwing social reform program from the simple class-based critique of capitalism to a suite of progressive issues. These have little or nothing to do with class but they have been tacked onto the socialist shopping list of reforms, along with a new set of theoretical critiques (radical feminist, queer, postcolonial, Deep Green etc).

Norton suggested that from the 1960s on the left increasingly defined themselves against a majority who held the wrong attitudes. Instead of attacking the rich, they attacked ‘society’. Consequently, moral snobbery and disdain for the traditional views and sentiments of the common folk have become dominant in the left culture and drive the program of identity politics.

More critical investigation required but don’t expect it to happen in the universities.

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14 Responses to The new class war, from economics to identity

  1. Confused Old Misfit

    I love Scruton’s writing.

    At Cambridge I advanced as far as an ordinary lower-class heterosexual can manage –

    So much in that one phrase.

  2. PB

    The modern issues of the Left are not intended to have solutions. The process is what they value: the division, the distraction, the confusion. The means IS the end.

  3. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    mmm. The British class system is alive and well and is still distinguished by accent, which to be fully authentic must gained when young and is largely permanent after that. A teacher in my youth in the UK who wanted a disadvantaged me to go far drummed her toff accent into me before I turned eleven and refined it then for another year till I returned to Australia. I still have it to some extent even now, an early educational influence I have joked about with monarchist David Flint, whose toff accent came from something similar in Colonial Malaya.

    Don’t let anyone tell you that accent is not a great social divider in Britain. The ‘acceptable upper class’ accent is less cut glass in tone, but still instantly recognized by those who have it and also by those who don’t, wealth notwithstanding. Idioms too can be telling. The native born are thus disadvantaged against the Americans and other Colonials, who are excused from quite a lot of the accent snobbery. Such foreigners though are easily dismissed as brash and having ‘poor form’.

  4. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    Class identity is not something the left talk about any more.
    The mythology now is that class ‘doesn’t matter’ these days.
    Even though it does, very much.

  5. OldOzzie

    Bill Shorten’s battlelines: target rich, buy off poor

    DENNIS SHANAHAN

    Bill Shorten has struck back against the Coalition’s budget in a big, bold and traditional Labor fashion: huge spending on healthcare to cut out-of-pocket expenses for cancer sufferers.

    The move underscores the ALP’s strength on Medicare.

    Hoping to neutralise the ­Coalition’s traditional strength on economic management and the $302 billion the government has offered in personal tax cuts, the Opposition Leader pledged last night to better Josh Frydenberg’s surplus and debt-reduction targets­, and offer more personal tax cuts in the short term for lower-income ­earners.

    In contrast to the Treasurer’s cautious budget approach — designed­ to be error-free and solid — Shorten’s speech was highly political, bold and declarative. He was not afraid to tweak the econo­mic facts here and there.

    It could have been a campaign launch speech, firing up the faithful and scoring political points at every turn.

    Shorten declared that, no matter­ how you vote in the upcoming election, middle-income earners on up to $120,000 will get the same tax relief come July, and those earning less than $40,000 will get more.

    Neutralising the budget went further, with Shorten taking up the Coalition’s challenge on budget surpluses and debt reduc­tion.

    The fundamental questions for voters are still “who do you trust?” to deliver on the economy and tax cuts and “who pays?”. But Labor Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen is offering voters an alternative with a bit of icing and a claim to be even more responsible.

    Not content with trying to match a Coalition strength, Shorten has pivoted with a $3bn spending boost on health and education — Labor’s acknowledged strengths.

    Typically quick on the politics, he has learned from the success of the “Mediscare” campaign against Malcolm Turnbull in 2016.

    “This is the most important reform to Medicare since it was introduced by Bob Hawke,” Shorten said last night. “Labor believes it should be your Medicare card, not your credit card, which guarantees access to quality healthcare in Australia.”

    Not only is Labor’s offer of free cancer treatment a headline-grabbing initiative, it is a bid to trump the Coalition’s extensive expansion of subsidised cancer drugs through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme — which is getting traction among voters.

    It also counters the Coalition campaign highlighting the fact that fiscal failure led Labor to cut cancer-fighting drugs when it was last in government.

    An extra $1bn promise for skills, TAFE and apprenticeships likewise taps into a Labor strong point and appeals to supporters who put health and education spending as their top priorities.

    Shorten’s intent is clear: match the Coalition where it is strongest and outbid it where the ALP is strongest. The bottom line remains that voters still have to choose between how those packages are paid for: the Coalition’s “economic plan” for growth or Labor’s $200bn in new taxes on business, investors and higher-income earners.

  6. rickw

    Norton suggested that from the 1960s on the left increasingly defined themselves against a majority who held the wrong attitudes. Instead of attacking the rich, they attacked ‘society’. Consequently, moral snobbery and disdain for the traditional views and sentiments of the common folk have become dominant in the left culture and drive the program of identity politics.

    Their most successful strategy for attacking a stable and robust society was to flood it with outsiders who vote. The sensible majority was thus weakened and distracted with the peripheral issues that come from being flooded with outsiders.

  7. Rabid Koala

    The left are made up of spoiled rich kids and have always been, ever since the parasitical Marx bludged off rich kid Engels while at the same time denouncing personal wealth.

  8. Percy Popinjay

    flood it with outsiders who vote

    Exactly. Consequently we no longer have any national identity and “the outsiders” will constitute a rusted on vote compliant underclass always acting against the interests of those who attempt to take responsibility for their own lives.

  9. Behind Enemy Lines

    The new class war, from economics to identity
    Posted on 10:03 pm, April 4, 2019 by Rafe Champion

    Norton suggested that from the 1960s on the left increasingly defined themselves against a majority who held the wrong attitudes. Instead of attacking the rich, they attacked ‘society’. Consequently, moral snobbery and disdain for the traditional views and sentiments of the common folk have become dominant in the left culture and drive the program of identity politics.

    Spandrell’s ‘biolenenism’ is a splendid description and explanation of how the left has shifted. Ostensibly working-class people like Scruton’s family, smart and hardworking people who were improving themselves and moving up in life, were never going to be reliable voting cattle for the left. So they’ve been thrown overboard by the supposed Party Of The Workers. These days the ALP and its union masters scarcely pretend to care about working class people. Only stupidity and selfishness keeps the working class begging crumbs from the left that hates them. Whereas today’s bioleninist coalition of life’s genetic losers, they’re all gleefully signed on for life in the left’s campaign to destroy society. That shrieking 300kg lesbian ragehead from the sociology department isn’t content with ruining her own life – she wants to ruin your life, too, and all her chums on the bioleninst team are consumed with 24/7 lust for the government power to do it. The left is promising her revenge for life’s biological injustices, and now she’s getting it. Talk about reliable! With supporters like that, who needs Scuton’s old pa?

  10. Dr Fred Lenin

    Years ago labor used to be working class as Beasley’s dad said “he cream of the working class”,now the leaders are lowest middle class ,the people who barely passed their tiny university course .
    They are virtually unemployable most of them , conveyancing clerks and union aparatchiks .

  11. Norton suggested that from the 1960s on the left increasingly defined themselves against a majority who held the wrong attitudes. Instead of attacking the rich, they attacked ‘society’.
    More critical investigation required but don’t expect it to happen in the universities.

    Dr Jordan B Peterson explains this phenom in his various videos and lectures.
    By the late 60’s to 70’s, Post Modernists could no longer defend/ignore the evils of communism, too many dead bodies. Class warfare was a losing strategy, especially since so many in the West were quickly rising up the class ladder.
    So the Post Modernists came up with other group identities. Sex, sexual orientation, skin colour and religion chief among them.
    This is why JBP calls Post Modernism an evil ideology. Same goals as communism (and inevitably the same outcomes). Just a different way to fight the war.

  12. Bruce

    “Norton suggested that from the 1960s on the left increasingly defined themselves against a majority who held the wrong attitudes. Instead of attacking the rich, they attacked ‘society’. Consequently, moral snobbery and disdain for the traditional views and sentiments of the common folk have become dominant in the left culture and drive the program of identity politics. ”

    See also Pol Pot; now there was a serious left-wing reformer!

  13. Boambee John

    The ALP started out as the party of the rural and industrial working class.

    It is now the party of the inner-city dwelling, tertiary credentialled (not educated), taxpayer paid middle class. However, it still relies on the votes of the “rusted on” working class.

    John Howard drew many of them away for a while. Someone like Mark Latham could do it again. The latter might have some economic policies that conservatives or libertarians would not like, but the worst of such policies would still be better that anything the SJWankers of Labor and the Greens are offering.

  14. NB

    The prols keep deferring the revolution, and keep getting wealthier. They suffer from chronic false consciousness. They have had access to the light of Marxism for 150 years, but just won’t play their role. What is there not to despise about the proletariat?
    Only the enlightened, educated, Platonic philosopher can see the truth. The new way to fracture the false consciousness is to attack the capitalist racism, patriarchy, language structures, history, racism – to dissolve everything. For that, you have to hate everyone and everything, because you love them, and want to help them.

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