The new class war, from economics to identity

Apr 4, 2019 by

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.

Source: The new class war, from economics to identity | Catallaxy Files

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