Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Economic And Cultural (Power) Discontents Of The Fallen Professional Classes

benjaminstudebaker  |  Then there are jobs that require a degree but which are less secure and less lucrative than they used to be. Attacks on teachers’ unions, for instance, are gradually eroding the benefits and security which teachers have traditionally enjoyed. As this happens, the distinction in living standard between teachers and ordinary workers becomes blurrier and blurrier. Tenured teachers still have a better situation than most workers, but fewer and fewer teachers are put in position to acquire tenure. Within teaching, then, there is a minority of secure, tenured faculty–who are part of the rump professional class. Then there are teachers who have no realistic path to tenure and have been effectively turned into casual workers. These teachers are part of the fallen professional class. The rump professional class and the fallen professional class have largely the same education, but are nonetheless treated very differently, because the system is not interested in rewarding their merit but in reducing the cost of the education system.

The fallen professionals want to be part of the rump professional class, but can no longer access it materially. They can only access it culturally, by maintaining their familiarity with the language and ideas of the rump professionals. For this reason, the fallen professionals try very hard to continue to be part of the culture of the rump professionals. This enables many rump professionals to make money off their fallen counterparts by selling an ersatz version of the experience of professional class life. This takes the form of podcasts, YouTube videos, and prestige TV shows and films. By consuming this media, the fallen professional continues to feel part of the rump professional class, even as the fallen professional is robbed of the material benefits of being a member.

Because the fallen professionals want to feel superior to the ordinary workers, the rump professionals have a financial incentive to sell ideas which flatter this superiority complex. This has led, in recent years, to the development of a woke industry which invents new terms and grounds for taking offence. By using these terms and taking offence in these ways, the fallen professionals feel they are participating in the culture of the rump professionals and they can distinguish themselves from the ordinary workers, who fail to use the language or to recognise the offensiveness.

The rump professionals justify this commercialisation of radicalism on the grounds that it is ostensibly morally committed to resisting racism, patriarchy, fascism, or even capitalism itself. But the main effect of the product is to create cultural barriers between the fallen professionals and the ordinary workers, so the fallen professionals will continue to politically identify with the rump professionals and therefore with the rich. The language is used to label the ordinary worker a deplorable bigot, and the ordinary worker responds by seeking the absolute destruction of these professionals through right nationalist politics. Mortified by the right nationalism of the workers, the rump and fallen professionals lean ever harder into denouncing them as bigots, creating a vicious cycle which pushes the workers further and further to the right.

For some time now, the left has sought to use these fallen professionals as “class traitors”. They are supposed to lead left-wing movements and organise on the ground. But the fallen professionals cannot do this, because they have contempt for the people they are trying to lead. This contempt is nurtured by the cultural content manufactured by the rump professionals.

None of this is anyone’s fault, individually. Because it’s getting harder and harder to be part of the rump professional class, would-be professionals must do everything they can to compete, and that means they have to look for money wherever they can find it. Those who make it must make money off those who do not. Those who do not were fed lies from childhood. They were told that a professional class life was achievable, and they were told it would be wonderful and fulfilling. Their desire to get the recognition and meaning they were promised is a reasonable consequence of the way they were socialised. And how can the ordinary worker react in any other way? The worker cannot have dignity without resisting a professional culture that constantly denigrates workers for lacking elite education.