One for the weekend: class and the workings of capitalism


Usually Friday evenings on The Money Principle are reserved for lightness, the personal and the kind of entertainment that eases us gently into the weekend.

Today is different. Today, I decided to share with you a chart that a South African friend of mine who is politically to the left of Karl Marx – and has similarly strong sense of social justice and desire to change his world – shared on Facebook.

This friend of mine is also economist; I don’t hold it against him – he is not a mainstream economist and he did try to break away: he took my sociology of science and science dynamics course when he did our Masters programme.

I wanted to share this with you although it is obviously simplistic.

Still, it draws attention to several interesting points:

  • If you are not obscenely wealthy at the moment you are mostly really screwed.
  • Poor people and the middle class – people with jobs who sell their labour – generate the value that lines the pockets of the very wealthy. How, you may ask? If you drive a taxi but don’t own the car you pay 50% of what you take to the owner. If you work for a consultancy (or a law/accountancy firm) you’ll find that your time is charged at more than twice the money that you are paid. This is also known as exploitation.
  • Capitalism is eating its middle class; there are many ways in which this happens but one is that the ‘middle income’ jobs that the middle classes did are largely gone. And they are probably not coming back.
  • Inequality at different levels of society is increasing at unprecedented rate at the moment.
  • We still believe that THE problem of the world today is poverty. In fact, the serious problem is inequality.

This is serious stuff for the weekend. Still, it is probably time we start thinking about what this means for us as individuals and for the societies we live in.

You can check where you fit in today’s complex class system and take the BBC class survey. I was slightly surprised that I belong to the elite – it doesn’t feel like it most of the time.

Which of the seven classes you fall under? What are the threats to your future? Please share in the comments.

Enjoy and share the chart on the workings of capitalism.


9 thoughts on “One for the weekend: class and the workings of capitalism”

  1. I just took this test and I am part of the “Technical Middle Class.” I would agree with this and felt that the assessment was correct. For those who read my comment I want it to be clear that I’m an American so that you have the context behind my observations/comments. Sorry, this will be a long comment 🙂

    Capitalism can work on an individual basis if you: know the system, are entrepreneurial, have NO DEBT, and invest like a rock star. Also, it opens the possibility for cheap goods such as: clothes/technology/ and to a certain degree cars and in some places real estate. Also, capitalism as practiced in the U.S. makes borrowing money to access investments in real estate fairly easy to do and opening a business is super easy to do ($50 as a solopreneur).

    HOWEVER, we are now seeing the folly of outsourcing in order to achieve higher profits and cheaper goods. In the U.S. there are now tons of people who are unemployed because we outsourced their jobs seeking higher profits and cheaper labor. In the process we sacrificed: quality, loyalty to the business/country, and most importantly-JOBS.

    Also, people are human and want what they want. It’s hard to tell someone who works 40 + hours a week that they shouldn’t purchase a flat screen t.v. (cheap) on their credit card (debt). So that they have a small measure of enjoyment that comes from their energy expenditures.

    Unfortunately, this creates a Catch-22. We want to have visual proof of our hard work, but in the process of buying these items we continue to employ individuals in other countries at a cheaper rate without employing our own citizens.

    I’ve just spent a year not shopping for fashion (clothes/shoes/etc) One of the major things that came out of that experiment is a clear commitment to purchasing my values and understanding that each dollar/pound/etc that we spend is speaking our values. I now focus on purchasing second hand first, U.S. Manufactured goods second, then goods manufactured ethically from other countries. Obviously, I still purchase from places I don’t like but this process has lowered the likelihood of that enormously (and saved me money).

    In order for Capitalism to work you have to be super savvy and debt free. The debt that we are taking on is in affect pushing the middle class into insolvency. We have to be smarter than the system and I’m not sure if we can be if we let emotion guide our decision making with money.

    I really enjoyed this post!

  2. I also took the test, but it put me in part of the “established middle class” group which I wouldn’t agree with – I would say I’m part of the technical middle class or, more likely, the “new affluent workers” group because I am not that established in my career and lots of our “savings” are from retirement and pension plans. Plus, things are a bit different, I think, over here.

  3. I took this test a year ago and I was ‘Technical Middle Class’ which I wasn’t sure was right, as I thought I was more ‘New Affluent Worker’.

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