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September 6th, 2004


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12:50 pm - Happy Labor Day!
I'm laboring. It's donated labor though. and I am receiving holiday pay. In honor of the holiday, here's a poll:

Poll #346318 Labor day info

Do you consider yourself working class?

yes
54(42.2%)
no
70(54.7%)

what do you base this on?

Income of family you grew up with
11(8.5%)
your education level
0(0.0%)
your income level
4(3.1%)
type of job you do
9(7.0%)
the idea that class doesn't exist anymore in the USA/Canada/UK
0(0.0%)
access to economic resources in general
3(2.3%)
property ownership
0(0.0%)
business ownership
1(0.8%)
trust funds/stocks/investments
1(0.8%)
duh. it's obvious.
2(1.6%)

If you had to think about your answer, why was that?


Current Music: Del the Funkee Homosapien
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(66 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


From:tragicmulatta
Date:September 6th, 2004 02:01 pm (UTC)
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Complicated! And too long to fit into that teeny box.

I was raised by college-educated, middle class folks, and always had access to things like private schools, dentist appointments every 6 months, all that. Now, ostensibly grown and with a BA and partway through a master's program, I work 2 (unskilled labor) jobs and am up to my neck in student loan debt. And haven't been to the dentist in years, have no health insurance, don't get paid time off or benefits or anything, which is why I answered how I did.

But blah blah blah, I'll shut up now. Got your message, though - thanks! Can I call you tonight?
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From:gordonzola
Date:September 6th, 2004 02:05 pm (UTC)
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I'll be busy until about 10 PM my time, but call afeter if you want!
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From:kest
Date:September 6th, 2004 02:38 pm (UTC)
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I believe in classes, but not necessarily 'working class', in this country. I'm not sure what boundaries I'd currently put around such a category. But my best guesses and fuzzy lines do not include my current occupation, background, culture, or state of living. In the past, they may have included my occupation and state of living, and whether they would have included my background or culture is also fuzzy in spots.
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From:gwenzilla
Date:September 6th, 2004 02:45 pm (UTC)
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though I'd probably say 'lower' or 'verging on middle' rather than 'working'; working class makes me think of blue-collar, which I don't do, and I make less than.
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From:jette
Date:September 6th, 2004 03:59 pm (UTC)
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There wasn't enough room to say that to me, "pink collar" is working class.

One grandfather was a merchant and local small town politician (and founder of his local mensa chapter, which is not to say he was smart but to say that being social was important to him), the other was a diplomat and head of Finnish Naval Intelligence at one point, and my father was a computer programmer (which was considered professional class 30 years ago), so while I didn't grow up with very much money or certain resouces, and I don't own any property or have a whole lot of money now, the values and instruction I received growing up would be inconsistent with my identifying working-class.

On the other hand, my grandfather, the mensa one, did have a rather working class up bringing.

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From:gordonzola
Date:September 6th, 2004 05:33 pm (UTC)
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There wasn't enough room to say that to me, "pink collar" is working class.

I do too, which is why I didn't make a seperate category.
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From:freshwater_pr0n
Date:September 6th, 2004 04:09 pm (UTC)
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Is there still a working class? Most people who would, twenty or thirty years ago be working class would now more aptly be described as the working poor.

Working class, to me, implies people who are steadily employed at one company for a number of years, and probably have a skill. They probably receive some benefits from their employer, take vacations, and may even own their own house, however modest. How common is it to meet someone like that today?
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From:jenlight
Date:September 6th, 2004 11:40 pm (UTC)
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The definitions have been skewed something awful in the U.S. for sure.

What you are describing sounds like middle class. Step down a bit. Benefits are granted via union organization. Most likely in a trade. Most likely would rent a home rather than own it. There is a mindset involved - a culture. The constant lottery playing in hopes that one will become "middle class" is a sure sign.
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From:sabotabby
Date:September 6th, 2004 04:23 pm (UTC)
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coughrelationshiptothemeansofproductioncough.
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From:dobrovolets
Date:September 6th, 2004 05:17 pm (UTC)
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Thank you!
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From:jamie_miller
Date:September 6th, 2004 04:30 pm (UTC)
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The old definitions of "working class" just don't cut it any more in a global economy. I don't think everybody should halt class analysis, though; just update the rhetoric and definitions for modern times.
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From:odelenu
Date:September 6th, 2004 05:43 pm (UTC)
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Go see Vanity Fair, it is way better than plowing through the 850 or so pages. Class stuggles are still alive and kicking even in 2004. Sadly not so much of the kicking but you get my drift...
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From:mercyorbemoaned
Date:September 6th, 2004 06:31 pm (UTC)
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Me: downwardly mobile rootless urban pseudo-intelligensia

Mr. Common Reader: walking Horatio Alger story. Mother's family are hillbillies, father's family Sicilian immigrants. Mr. CR bought his first computer with his lawn mowing earnings and learned to program it with books from the library. Eventually this led him to the job he has now, which pays him around $110,000. But we're stll broke because getting custody of the children cost about half a million dollars.

"Your income level" ought to read "your household income level." My personal income is $000,000.000 but that's not representative of my class status, obviously.
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From:gordonzola
Date:September 7th, 2004 10:01 am (UTC)
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"Your income level" ought to read "your household income level."

you are 100% correct. good kitty.
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From:warsop
Date:September 6th, 2004 06:58 pm (UTC)
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I tend to map 'working class' to 'blue-collar'. Working class, to me, implies largely unskilled labour. I'm not sure if that's really valid. I couldn't quit my job tomorrow and survive for much longer than six months, so don't I need my job just as much as someone who's working the line at GM? I should probably examine my thoughts about this a bit more.

My family's income growing up had a significant impact on what I call myself now. I grew up pretty poor (free school lunches until I graduated from high school, for example). I got through college by a combination of student loans, jobs, and caffeine. I somehow ended up living in Silicon Valley with a salary that's well over my parents' combined income (although, to be fair, they live in rural Michigan and thus have a significantly lower cost-of-living).
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From:halfjack
Date:September 6th, 2004 07:12 pm (UTC)
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I define myself as working class because, though I make good money, I own no business, no real estate, and have no investments. I work for someone else and though he pays me well I don't participate in ownership of the business. I don't own even a piece of the means of production. Any production. Perhaps, however, a new definition is warranted, because I certainly could own all kinds of means of production if I wanted to, and that doesn't quite seem to fit the intent of the traditional definition of "working class".
From:naturalborn
Date:September 6th, 2004 07:43 pm (UTC)
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Good grief. If you work for a living, rather than having your money work for you for a living, you're working class. Highly paid people are generally still working class, although in principle they should be able to jump ranks fairly quickly, but they rarely do. And a person making $100,000 supporting a family of four in the bay area is not making a lot of money, by the way.

It sounds from user comments like people view 'working class' as a pejorative term and hence like to view themselves as not part of it. That's probably the source of the euphamistic 'middle class' which basically means 'not starving working class'. I doubt more than five people who filled out that poll are actually not working class. I left the working class recently, and trust me, being out of it is completely different.
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From:magpiesf
Date:September 6th, 2004 08:42 pm (UTC)
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i didnt have to think for the slightest fraction of a moment before answering "yes" to the working class question. although my parents wouldnt neccessarily fall into the same category - my father being quite white collar and my mom, well, i guess my moms pink collar, now that im introduced to that term - the influence of my grandparents in their very much working class background is inescapable. but thats all if i define my working-class-ness in terms of a mindset, or a set of (sometimes abstract) things i identify with. if i define it in wobbly terms, then heck yeah - not a boss, not a manager, and not a pig... if i define it in terms of doing actual physical labor, well, ive got that nailed down too.

i think i considered myself "working class" before i ever joined the workforce, to be honest - which goes back to that whole mindset thing. im not sure id be comfortable anywhere else - ive turned down jobs in the past because they would have involved hire/fire power and management type stuff, and id do it again - its not a position im comfortable being in as an individual.

i do sometimes tend to want to equate "working class" with having a trade or such, but i catch myself on this, because "trade" is seemingly a very subjective thing - i consider my work as a trade, but theres sure a hell of a lot of people whove laughed at me when ive defined it as such. im still not entirely sure id ever be comfortable doing work that wasnt at least in part physical. while quiet about it mostly, i am still quite fiercely proud of being working class.

were i to own property, or a company (in the sense of "owning" as a member of a cooperative/collective/whatever - again, ive no interest in being the "boss") - i beleive id still very much consider myself working class, going back again to beleiving that in the end, its much more about how you think and relate than it is to how much you make, what you own, or what you do for a living.

ramble ramble.
From:rootlesscosmo
Date:September 6th, 2004 09:36 pm (UTC)
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Very interesting discussion. If I can paraphrase, I'd say the "relationshiptothemeansofproduction" school illustrate why using the term "class," without a whole lot of explanatory comment, isn't very useful. Someone observes that even if you make six figures, you're "technically" working class. Someone else says if you make a high income but still have to sell your labor-power to live, you qualify. OK, I can accept that. But what--if anything--follows from it?

The point of class analysis, as I always understood it, was that class position was a predictor of political outlook: "Social being," as Marx says in (I think) the Theses on Feuerbach, "determines social consciousness." (He even says, in "Poverty of Philosophy," that it doesn't matter what the working class thinks at any particular moment, because sooner or later their circumstances will *compel* them to arrive at class-consciousness, at being a "class-for-itself.")

We're still waiting, aren't we... not just here but throughout the world. In fact if there's one fairly solid conclusion to be drawn from the history of the last, lemme see, 156 years (since the Communist Manifesto) it's that class, as defined by Marx, is a really lousy predictor of behavior and outlook. A word like "technically" is a giveaway, isn't it? If a Wal-Mart worker, a neuropsychiatric resident at UCSF Hospital, a police sergeant, and a Microsoft manager are all "technically" working class because they own no means of production and are obliged to work for wages, what do we know that we didn't know before we applied the Marxian class formula? Will they probably vote the same way, or have the same opinion about abortion rights, or feel that they have something in common with each other that they don't share with (say) a farmer who owns his own land, or a small-business owner? Or if not, can we nevertheless expect that, at some future time, they'll draw closer politically? I wouldn't bet on it.

"Class" can be defined by relation to the means of production, or by income, or by what the sociologists in the 60's used to call "SES" (an amalgam of income, education level, and consumption patterns), or purely by consumption--a Volvo station wagon and a loaded Chevy S-10 pickup cost about the same but they talk different class languages. It only matters, I think, insofar as it helps us make sense of what people think and how they act in the public arena. And for that, a much finer-grained, less determinist way of understanding class is needed.

Oh, and p.s.: I was a blue-collar worker for 25 years and worked for wages my whole adult life. Now I'm a house-husband; Peggy has a solo law practice (no employees, fee for service--classic cockroach capitalism as we used to say in New York.) Nu?
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From:trishylicious
Date:September 6th, 2004 11:14 pm (UTC)
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e.g. lack of property ownership, not a business owner, and past work experiences. work more than 40 hrs almost every week (without overtime) and still live paycheck to paycheck, scrimping & saving to pay off massive debt. not as bad off as some, since my work is creative and enjoyable in some ways. but working class doesn't necessarily mean blue collar physical labor, or living in a trailer... it just means folks who work very hard for the money just to get by and can't enjoy a lot of free-time or spend much without repercussions. since most manufacturing jobs have gone to other countries and people have had to adapt as such, working class encompasses a lot more these days.
From:lth
Date:September 6th, 2004 11:19 pm (UTC)
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Both of my grandfathers were working class, but I grew up in the household of a mostly non-working, very poor single mother.

Now I'm an occasionally working student. Not enough work going on around these parts to consider myself a part of that class. Yet considering the white collar work that I do when I do it, I wouldn't have thought to call myself working class if it wasn't for that Wobbly who explained things.

So. Someday, I'd like to be working class.
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From:jenlight
Date:September 6th, 2004 11:44 pm (UTC)
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There just aren't that many good old-fashioned working class people on the web. Something to do with being busy STILL trying to reach that holy land of Middle Class-hood.

Dad a steel worker, Mom a teacher (never kept a job long) tried to own a house and were forced to declare bankruptcy. College wasn't talked about. Education meant nothing.
"Get a job, have a family." I guess I just fit into boxes.
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From:gordonzola
Date:September 7th, 2004 10:03 am (UTC)
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You're iconic! Represent!
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From:elusis
Date:September 7th, 2004 12:29 am (UTC)
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I could not answer q #1 because I work a very working-class job for a very working-class wage right now, but I am educated to a professional-class/white-collar/whatever level and also hold a job, in fact own a business, using that education. I was raised by college-educated professionals who by dint of their profession (public school teachers) and divorce raised me in a firmly lower-middle-class fashion (and sometimes impoverished, during mom's early years of single motherhood). Growing up I knew no one in the military, few friends whose parents worked in factories or retail, few who were union members other than teachers like my parents.

I've owned a home, but don't now and have no prospects of doing so any time in the forseeable future. I have access to economic resources greater than impoverished or working poor people, but my level of debt (see "educated" above) far exceeds both my worth and any realistic assessment of my current earning power. I have a life that appears fairly solidly middle class and privileged, but I'm one major accident or illness or stroke of bad luck away from losing both of my incomes and every bit of adult life I've created for myself. Divorce has also severely downshifted the (very modest) class status I thought I was working towards. I currently work a job that's hard on my health with little or no safety net to protect me from its impact.

So how do I determine my class status - by my laptop, my car, my CD collection? The miles I've put on the beat-up Converse I wear at the store every day? The strings of letters behind my name? The fact that I can't even afford a one-bedroom apartment in my neighborhood? The amount of travel I've done in the past few years? The fact that I have refused to go see the doctor during my current illness because it would take up too much of my paychecks? How my class is perceived by others in my therapist garb, my goth garb, my grocery garb?
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From:gordonzola
Date:September 7th, 2004 10:05 am (UTC)
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I currently work a job that's hard on my health with little or no safety net to protect me from its impact.

I think this is a pretty crucial distinction. and applies to most of the computer workers too. Also, the box I had about divorce/children somehow got left out of the survey (I think I typed over it by accident) so thanks for bringing it up.
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From:ericaceous
Date:September 7th, 2004 06:37 am (UTC)
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Why had to think about it:
1. I would identify my class *background* as working class.

2. However, I think going to college and such separates me from my old cultural context and has made me a bitter, confused, deeply class dysphoric gen X slacker type, which I feel is inherently some sort of bourgeoisie.

3. Plus I am an office worker, and even though my income is much less than anyone doing a construction job, I just have trouble conceptualizing office workers as working class.
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From:gordonzola
Date:September 7th, 2004 08:12 am (UTC)
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3. I highly recommend this book which is an anthology of an old SF zine about organizing office workers. It's a little dated but hillarious.
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From:jactitation
Date:September 7th, 2004 07:59 am (UTC)
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Has anyone read this book? I'm asking because I haven't either.
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From:slipkid
Date:September 7th, 2004 08:52 am (UTC)

yeah, I read it

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I read it over the labor day weekend in fact. yeah, yeah, that's it. while i was sunning by the pool with my wife . . . morgan fairchild. whom i've seen naked.

okay, maybe I didn't read that tarp as shacks book but I am not gonna feel bad about it. nor am I gonna get defensive about it. I can read, really, I can. so there.
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From:kittynitro
Date:September 7th, 2004 10:46 am (UTC)
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Interesting poll. That comment box is little, though: I consider myself working class based upon my mindset/culture/background. My dad's about as blue collar as they come (union, county, unskilled work) and neither of my parents and none of my siblings are college educated. On the one hand, we grew up in a very nice county. On the other, our lifestyle was worlds away from most of our peers. I do own my own business now, though massage therapy isn't a huge money maker. Up until a year or so ago, I'd have counted my education level in the equation, but I'll be starting (at 31 years old) at a pretty good college in a few months, so I feel in a strange way that I'm hovering over the class line, even though my financial prospects are lower than they have ever been.
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From:gordonzola
Date:September 7th, 2004 11:27 pm (UTC)
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th fact that Blacklist folks used to give you shit about "our" county still bothers me sometimes. Ah, the simplistic class analysis of da punx.
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From:anarqueso
Date:September 7th, 2004 11:53 am (UTC)
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Reasons I might consider myself working class:
1. I do hard, repetetive, relatively unskilled and low-status work in a service industry.
2. I don't own anything worth more than about a thousand bucks.
3. I don't have a college degree, and if I were to lose this job, I don't think I'd have many options.
4. I was raised very poor, by low-paid and non-working people.
5. My combined household income is currently pretty low and about to get lower.

Reasons I might not consider myself working class:
1. I was raised with middle class values regarding education and personal potential.
2. I spent quite a while in college.
3. I'm part of a worker-owned cooperative in which the traditional worker/boss/owner dynamic doesn't exist. Is there a co-op class?

Okay, I suppose I'm working class. But it's confusing.
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From:superchones
Date:September 7th, 2004 03:28 pm (UTC)
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when the coop conference is over, let us watch some movies and drink some beer. hopefully the fuckin heatwave will be over by then as well.
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From:gordonzola
Date:September 7th, 2004 11:26 pm (UTC)
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you bet, Super C. I miss you.
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From:flipzagging
Date:September 16th, 2004 06:16 pm (UTC)
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Hope you'll forgive a late entry.

I don't consider myself working class, because the system doesn't. I can be called a systems analyst, which gives me special rights right in NAFTA, which a co-op grocery worker doesn't get. Also I'm more likely to own or start a company, in which case I get all the sweet deals of incorporation and limited liability and so on. Generally I can be paid very well, if I so choose.

Socially, it's another matter. By parentage and biography, I'm an odd mix of mega-super-dominant class and working class.

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