Home Forum Political Economy Class Analysis – Power or Production

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  • #248820

    One of the most prevailing ideas within Marx’s work, is the Class Analysis with class being determined in relation to the Means of Production.

    While the gist of class struggle tells a good rhetorical story, it feels like the MOP Class Analysis leaves much to be desired in the modern context. So I wonder if there is room for an improved class analysis from the CasP perspective with Class being determined by relation to Power rather than MOP

    Class, when viewed through the lens of power, instead of as a relation to production, is a kyriarchal power relation.

    The person working at Goldman Sachs as a mid-level employee earning a 7-figure salary annually has more power than the small business owner clearing 10K profit annually.

    When someone wishes to mobilize people to do their bidding, under capitalism, this means treating people’s labour like a commodity for sale. The 10k small capitalist can get a few people to do some things, while the Goldman Sachs employee can get a much larger group of people to do things.

    This is Power Over people.

    If we were to treat class as a relation to means of production. The Goldman Sachs employee would be working class, while the Small Business owner would qualify as petite bourgeoisie. Clearly, relation to Means of Production is not a good lens for viewing class.

    And I say it is Kyriarchal, because that Goldman Sachs worker might be a Black Trans Woman facing other forms of oppression, while one of their coworkers is a White male earning the same salary. Both of them might have the same capacity for exerting their will, but they do not have an equal confidence in the obedience of those they seek to mobilize to enact their will.

    Class should be viewed through this complex lens of Power relations that include matrices of intersectional domination.

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    • #248822

      One of the most prevailing ideas within Marx’s work, is the Class Analysis with class being determined in relation to the Means of Production. While the gist of class struggle tells a good rhetorical story, it feels like the MOP Class Analysis leaves much to be desired in the modern context. So I wonder if there is room for an improved class analysis from the CasP perspective with Class being determined by relation to Power rather than MOP Class, when viewed through the lens of power, instead of as a relation to production, is a kyriarchal power relation. The person working at Goldman Sachs as a mid-level employee earning a 7-figure salary annually has more power than the small business owner clearing 10K profit annually. When someone wishes to mobilize people to do their bidding, under capitalism, this means treating people’s labour like a commodity for sale. The 10k small capitalist can get a few people to do some things, while the Goldman Sachs employee can get a much larger group of people to do things. This is Power Over people. If we were to treat class as a relation to means of production. The Goldman Sachs employee would be working class, while the Small Business owner would qualify as petite bourgeoisie. Clearly, relation to Means of Production is not a good lens for viewing class. And I say it is Kyriarchal, because that Goldman Sachs worker might be a Black Trans Woman facing other forms of oppression, while one of their coworkers is a White male earning the same salary. Both of them might have the same capacity for exerting their will, but they do not have an equal confidence in the obedience of those they seek to mobilize to enact their will. Class should be viewed through this complex lens of Power relations that include matrices of intersectional domination.

      Pieter,

      First, I am not as familiar with Marx’s class analysis as I should be, so any pointers on what to review to deepen my understanding of it would be appreciated.

      Second, doesn’t CasP already have some form of class analysis, i.e., the rulers and the ruled as mediated by the market and capital?  Or does that just beg the question of how did the classes coalesce in the first place?

      Regarding the sole proprietor and the GS employee, isn’t the difference in mobilization due to the fact the sole proprietor mobilizes individuals while the GS employee mobilizes hierarchies of individuals? How should CasP’s class analysis account for hierarchically-induced dynamics, if at all?  Hierarchies are built one master-servant relationship at a time, but what constitutes the master-servant relationship is often contextual (creditor-debtor, employer-employee, societal norms, etc.).  Power is always personal, but it is most often projected through impersonal means.  The more one must project power personally, the less power one has.  Hierarchies provide leverage.

      • #248823

        First, I am not as familiar with Marx’s class analysis as I should be, so any pointers on what to review to deepen my understanding of it would be appreciated.

        Hi Scott, for reference, Marx’s Communist Manifesto and Capital Vol II and III are where he digs into his class analysis. Marx distinguishes between the bourgeoisie (Capitalist class capable of purchasing labour) Petit Bourgeousie (Wealthy people who do not purchase labour), Workers, and Lumpenproletariat (comprised of unemployed, disabled, homeless and outcast portions of society).

        Second, doesn’t CasP already have some form of class analysis, i.e., the rulers and the ruled as mediated by the market and capital?  Or does that just beg the question of how did the classes coalesce in the first place?

        I think that it would be highly reductive to limit class analysis to the rulers and the ruled, as this essentially ignores the fuzzy lines that are often drawn by the intersections of hierarchies that interact in different ways and different contexts. Hence me bringing up this subject in the first place.

        Regarding the sole proprietor and the GS employee, isn’t the difference in mobilization due to the fact the sole proprietor mobilizes individuals while the GS employee mobilizes hierarchies of individuals?

        If we limit our framework to viewing only the economic realm and the workplace, then this might fit, but in essence, the small business owner is limited to their employees and their small financial reach in the ability to exert their will, while the GS employee can mobilize the hierarchy beneath them, and has the fiscal means to mobilize much larger swathes of the population outside of the workplace.

        How should CasP’s class analysis account for hierarchically-induced dynamics, if at all?

        CasP offers us the ability to look at how power is capitalized differentially at different intersections of hierarchical domination. Rather than simply looking at absolute wealth, or absolute relation to property, as the Marxist Class Analysis does, I think CasP offers us a more refined framework in which to approach Class Analysis. By looking at the Power of various hierarchies, from the business firm, to race relations, to governmental legal frameworks, to the various social phobias (homophobia, xenophobia, ageism, sexism) we can find the contexts of where these hierarchies intersect, and judge each individual’s relation to power, thereby introducing a highly granular and contextualized Class analysis.

    • #248824

      Hi Scott, for reference, Marx’s Communist Manifesto and Capital Vol II and III are where he digs into his class analysis. Marx distinguishes between the bourgeoisie (Capitalist class capable of purchasing labour) Petit Bourgeousie (Wealthy people who do not purchase labour), Workers, and Lumpenproletariat (comprised of unemployed, disabled, homeless and outcast portions of society).

      Thanks, Pieter. I have all those volumes and was able to refresh my basic understanding by re-reading the relevant section of the CM. Things seem more spread out in Capital, but I am enjoying the journey (unlike CM, which I read over a decade ago, I’ve only consulted Capital for specific topics, none of which were his class analysis).

      I think that it would be highly reductive to limit class analysis to the rulers and the ruled, as this essentially ignores the fuzzy lines that are often drawn by the intersections of hierarchies that interact in different ways and different contexts. Hence me bringing up this subject in the first place.

      Another way to frame the inquiry is whether the concept of class exists at all within the CasP framework.  I think Bichler and Nitzan intend CasP to comprehend class, but are there bright line class divisions when everything is relative/differential? Lumpenproles, for example, have no power and simply do not exist within a mode of power but outside it.  Under capitalism, almost every master is a servant, and almost every servant is a master.

      Regarding the sole proprietor and the GS employee, isn’t the difference in mobilization due to the fact the sole proprietor mobilizes individuals while the GS employee mobilizes hierarchies of individuals?

      If we limit our framework to viewing only the economic realm and the workplace, then this might fit, but in essence, the small business owner is limited to their employees and their small financial reach in the ability to exert their will, while the GS employee can mobilize the hierarchy beneath them, and has the fiscal means to mobilize much larger swathes of the population outside of the workplace.

      As a major shareholder of many companies, even low level GS employees are capable of mobilizing hierarchies completely outside of GS. (I speak from experience; not fun)  In corporate-speak, you might call this kind of relationship as major GS investments having a dotted line reporting relationship with GS.

      CasP offers us the ability to look at how power is capitalized differentially at different intersections of hierarchical domination. Rather than simply looking at absolute wealth, or absolute relation to property, as the Marxist Class Analysis does, I think CasP offers us a more refined framework in which to approach Class Analysis. By looking at the Power of various hierarchies, from the business firm, to race relations, to governmental legal frameworks, to the various social phobias (homophobia, xenophobia, ageism, sexism) we can find the contexts of where these hierarchies intersect, and judge each individual’s relation to power, thereby introducing a highly granular and contextualized Class analysis.

      That’s a novel and interesting insight.  Again, I think reframing class in CasP terms may cause class to disappear because class defined in terms of differential power will be differential and, therefore, contextual. Still, it seems like a potentially fruitful area of inquiry.

    • #248897

      This post raises an interesting point about the limitations of the traditional Marxian class analysis based on means of production. The author argues that a more nuanced and accurate view of class can be achieved by looking at class as a relation to power, taking into account other forms of oppression such as race and gender. The example of the Goldman Sachs employee and the small business owner highlights the inadequacy of the means of production lens. The author concludes that class should be viewed through a complex lens of power relations, including intersectional domination.

      • This reply was modified 1 year, 3 months ago by Lilly Nelson.
      • This reply was modified 1 year, 3 months ago by Lilly Nelson.
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