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Class terminology

America was a land of peasants for quite some time. Founded by peasants who fled tyranny and persecution in europe. Pioneer families led lives of bitter destitution - but at least no one was around to tell them what to do, and that made it worth it to them.

It was a huge accomplishment that in the 20th century a middle class between peasant and aristocrat arose, and even became the majority! This had not been seen since the days of the Roman republic.

Those days are gone, but people hold on to them. I think in the US there is a lot of people who think they are middle class because they aren't homeless, or working at fast food.

I propose we use russian terminology for this stuff because americans refuse to use british class terminology, but distinctions still exist, if not of blood, then of station in life.

Proletariat is the lower class. I say that's most you guys on this forum, and on JoS, and working stiffs.

The bourgeoisie is the upper or merchant class.

The petit bourgeoisie is the class in between the two, what we call middle class. THese guys are management. They run things, but the work alongside their own employees.

Of the lower class peasants, you have kulaks, who own a lot of land and have people that work for them. You have seredniaks, that's most of us, middle-peasant class, and then you have bednyaks, the lower lower class, which is like mcdonalds workers, and finally at the dead bottom are batraks who are day laborers, or 'consultants' if you like.

Modern homeless people don't even fit into the class scheme. For that you have to switch to indian terminology and call them dalits.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 23rd, 2007 8:37pm
That's not Russian terminology, that's Soviet.  Russian would be Pomieshchiks, Oprichnicks, Boyars, Black Peasants, and Serfs.
Permalink Send private email Ward 
July 24th, 2007 1:25am
I was going to say something similar. Each social structure requires its own naming scheme (be it in Russian or English or anything). When the ways groups within a society are organized are realigned differently they have to use different vocabulary (be they bishopric, or an LLC, or a meetup).
Permalink strawdog soubriquet 
July 24th, 2007 8:51am
And now that PE has mis-named everybody to fit into some pre-imagined scheme of how people should work, what's your next trick?

Prove that Communism really works?
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
July 24th, 2007 10:14am
PE is right. Ward - not exactly.

Bourgeoisie and proletariat are French words,  proletariat came from Latin proletarius, belonging to the lowest class of Roman citizens. It was used in marxist and communist movements and in Soviet Russia.

Pomieshchiks and  Serfs - landowners and peasants it time of russian serfdom (about 1649-1861), Oprichnicks - Ivan the Terrible time, not a class definition, Boyars - members of high aristocracy, not in use after Peter I.  Black Peasants - what the heck are they?

Anyway, those are of feodal time, not good in our post-industrial world.:)
Permalink russian 
July 24th, 2007 10:21am
SaveTheHubble, Communism is an Utopian system. It does not work in big society, we've proved that.:)
Permalink russian 
July 24th, 2007 10:25am
You missed the irony, 'russian'.

The point was, having put people in America into obsolete, Communist-thought categories, it seemed that PE was then going to prove, logically, that Communism was going to work.  Or was inevitable.

I completely agree with you that the Russian experiment proves, quite conclusively, that Communism almost immediately devolves into some of the worst dictatorship the world has ever seen. 

But that won't stop people like PE continuing to embrace the phraseology, or "proving logically" that it SHOULD work.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
July 24th, 2007 10:35am
> I completely agree with you that the Russian experiment proves, quite conclusively, that Communism almost immediately devolves into some of the worst dictatorship the world has ever seen.

"That bird is black, therefore we can deduce that all birds are black"?

You also need to read more about communism.
Permalink man on the stair 
July 24th, 2007 10:58am
Yes, I missed that, sorry. :)
I understand there is a lot of bad feelings accumulated around  communism and such... Try to look on  those words as only economic/social therms, like they used to be in 19 century. They are not "bad", just reflect economy/society of that time.
Permalink russian 
July 24th, 2007 11:01am
Sorry, I'm an American, and some of the worst abuses of the American system have come about while attacking things in the name of "Preventing Communism".

Thus, some think John Kennedy was assassinated because he wasn't tough enough on Communism.  The Bay of Pigs occurred because of Anti-Communism.  McCarthy-ism was about anti-Communism.  The Social Security system of the US has been opposed because it's Socialist, which (apparently) is one step away from Communism.

Viet-Nam happened because of Anti-Communism.  Watergate occurred because Nixon thought the Democrats were soft on Communism.

So please forgive me if I refuse to think of Communism in some safe, 1900's ideological point of view.  It hasn't been that way in America since 1932 or so.

The problem I see is that Democracy and the Free Market need a little bit of Socialism around the edges, or the whole thing becomes destructive.  A 'pure' free market tends to devolve into monopoly, if not prevented from doing so by appropriate rules and laws.  Completely un-bound Capitalism tends to accumulate wealth in the top 10% of the population, which can then afford to support Politicians with their dollars to unbalance the system even more in their favor.

So something needs to be done in Public Policy to insure that the poor and middle-class continue to have access to good education, and good job opportunities.  Something needs to be done to prevent "Robber-Barons" from exploiting labor too much.  And something needs to be done to defend the country -- very few people point out the US Military is NOT a Democratic institution, but is in fact a dictatorship.  And for all these things we need taxes, and regulation, and Social Security.

But conservative American horror at Communism, and by extension Socialism, leads conservatives to continually try to take apart the thin Socialist framework that makes US Capitalism work so effectively.  And when they fully succeed we get Depressions.

So please forgive me if I refuse to see "Communism" as a mere philosophy.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
July 24th, 2007 11:27am
I agree that a lassaize faire capitalist society is not pleasant to live in. For anyone, even the supremely rich.

But I think Americans were justifiably afriad of Russia. Have you seen Krushchev's UN speeches, where he pounds his shoe on the table and says he's going to kill our children?

So it is unfair to categorize our response to that in completely rational terms. Though I agree we should strive to be better than we are, in reality we are not super men, and it's more honest to view history in the context of our human failings.
Permalink anoneemouse 
July 24th, 2007 1:04pm
Sure. Any time. :)
Permalink russian 
July 24th, 2007 1:10pm
>>> Ward - not exactly.

Yeah, I know, I just finished reading the chapter on Ivan IV in my latest Russian history book (nowhere near as good as Richard Pipes' - get his books if you're interested in the topic).

"Black" peasants is the term for the free peasants, about 1/2 of the peasantry in Ivan IV's time.
Permalink Send private email Ward 
July 24th, 2007 1:14pm
Except Kruschev was not "Communist" in anything except title.  He was a dictator, head of a dictatorship.  That THEY used Communist phraseology does not change the essence of what was going on.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
July 24th, 2007 1:31pm
"The point was, having put people in America into obsolete, Communist-thought categories, it seemed that PE was then going to prove, logically, that Communism was going to work.  Or was inevitable."

Holy fuck man, is that what you got out of it? You think I am arguing for Stalinism or something?

Here's my position on all this...

1. Communism has not been tried as a formal government system. I don't think it's even possible actually. Communism sort of exists in some families, extended families, and tribes like some but not all american indian tribes.

2. What Marx ended up creating was really Marx's own thing, not real communes or communal thinking. Thus it is more rightly called Marxism. Its specific form was developed by Lenin, and then Stalin. This form was copied closely by Mao, perhaps less closely by others who have had more variated experiences.

3. Marxism has appeared in some form in Russia, China, North Korea, Cuba, Zimbabwe and now is in progress in Venezuela. Bolivia and South Africa are toying with it, and now so is the US, via the recent Supreme Court Ruling that the State may confiscate property if its best economic use for the state is some other one than the owner is up to. It could be argued that Saudi Arabia has Marxist elements as well even though they are not inspired by the writings of Marx.

4. Requirements for Marxism are state confiscation of the means of production, factories and fields, then a master plan on exactly how everyone will proceed and what they will do. The modern take is that those who oppose the manifestation of the plan as espoused by a single central dictator or committee in any way are enemies of the state who will be reeducated, exiled or killed. To make it work like the more tragic 20th century examples in which tens of millions die, you need a psychopathic, selfish, ignorant brute to be that dictator (Stalin, Mao, Il Jung, Mugabe), which is not always the case (Supreme Court, Saudi royal family, Fidel Castro).

5. Marxism is contrary to human nature and as such is a psychopathic system that, through inflicting madness, destroys the economy it takes over, and the souls of its participants.

Now, the reason I brought up those terms is because the class distinctions in Russia were due to position in life and not bloodline. I think the US avoids class terminology mostly as a form of propoganda that class doesn't exist if you don't have a word for it, and specifically against British and European class blood distinctions because we 'reject' blood distinctions (not totally true, look at racism, look at the dynasties that control the US through Yale's Skull & Crossbones, etc).

The Russian one also has specific distinctions among the peasant class that shows what I am trying to say that most everyone in the US is po' folk and not doing good middle class like we used to have 30 years ago.

The argument for the middle class on the net nowadays is that 'I am not homeless, or I own a car, therefore I am middle class not peasant/lower class'. That's not the accepted definition of middle class though. And you can't compare to classes of other societies for car comparisons ("Only the rich own cars in china, therefore, although I am homeless with no money or clothes, I am upper class in the US because I have a old car I sleep in."), it needs to be looking at class structures in your own society.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 24th, 2007 2:49pm
The earlier post, before I had to defend it, was: Why is PE doing this?  What is his argument?  What is he advocating or not advocating?

Then I had to defend that question (because you yourself didn't answer it).

Whatever.  So your point now is that most people in America are 'poor', or at least "not middle-class".

Yeah, I think you're chopping at definitions.  But I still don't know why.  Maybe one day you'll relax about defining and redefining things, and make a point?

"Most people in America are not middle-class" is an ok assertion, I suppose.  But since it's contrary to common definitions and statements, it's kind of naked sitting there all by itself. 

It's like I'd say "Most oranges are not really orange, they're an off-shade of yellow".  The almost immediate question is "Why would you say that?  What point are you trying to make by that assertion?  That people are color blind?  That oranges are mis-named?  What?
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
July 24th, 2007 2:56pm
Sorry man about not answering your earlier one right off, I had to visit one of the company's clients so couldn't get in here till now. I know I should consider CoT my full time job, but it doesn't pay the bills.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 24th, 2007 3:50pm
Oh, it was only that you objected to my defense, and apparently ignored the original posting.

Hey, work pays the bills, I understand that.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
July 24th, 2007 4:35pm
OK, not sure totally if there's a conflict here, the last big post of mine I was just responding to the misunderstanding that my intention here was to justify marxism, but I posted this instead as part of the ongoing threads we've been having about class definitions, and I thought the, ok soviet, ones were the system that maybe could be used to get around the upper/middle/lower meme, which seems to have melted down or suffered redefinition and get into some comparison with other systems that had more defined distinctions. This is all mainly to counter what I see as the idea as "I'm not homeless or living in the inner city, therefore I am middle class", which I think is not a historically supported cut off point.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 24th, 2007 5:21pm

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