A Nation of Shopkeepers: The Unstoppable Rise of the Petite Bourgeoisie

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A Nation of Shopkeepers: The Unstoppable Rise of the Petite Bourgeoisie

A Nation of Shopkeepers: The Unstoppable Rise of the Petite Bourgeoisie

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So there must be another reason why labour movements are weak or another reason the petty bourgeoisie don’t support them. To correct the new middle class bias of the left, says Evans, what is needed is an anti-establishment appeal to working-class and ‘old’ petty-bourgeois communities, whose hostility to ‘globalisation and big capital’ reflect material interests that are not reducible to being ‘innately reactionary or racist’.

The IWW model of workplace organising, where all workers are given the responsibility and power to run their own union and direct their own struggle, directly opposes the managerialism and bureaucracy that all workers despise. After all, imperialism is a capitalist imperative that benefits not only the ruling classes, but every class in the imperial core, even the most exploited ones. The book’s most impassioned passages censure the left for purportedly mimicking the liberal social views espoused by the professional-managerial class (PMC). When Evans goes so far as to say that the working class’s rejection of the left ‘is an entirely rational one’, (p. An illustrative example is the 2012 Alternative Economic and Political Strategy published by the British Communist Party-affiliated Manifesto Press, whose authors included two of Corbyn’s prominent advisors, Seumas Milne and Andrew Murray.A brilliantly readable exploration of the difficulties and the necessity of class analysis for any imaginably successful left politics. But it is just plain wrong to speak of the “working class” without considering the global division of labor, and where the Western working class fits into that. Thankfully, there are aspects of the IWW’s organising model that are suited to some of the issues raised. This will mean leftists tackling with the complexities of the modern class system, rather than hiding behind liberal self-referencing, as in the social media trend of dismissing Britain as ‘rainy fascist island’ whenever things don’t suit their worldview.

In the early twentieth century, the petit bourgeoisie was supplemented by new “clerical white collar” workers, created to manage the increasingly globalised capitalism and to work in the State bureaucracy. For all the importance of the second-wave feminist and anti-racist critiques of the archetypal socialist agent as cloth cap-wearing miners or steelworkers, it is now clear that the trade union ‘Broad Left’ of the postwar decades was a vital defensive bulwark of the working class whose absence is sorely felt. Dan Evans’ new book cuts through the nonsense and provides useful working definitions for fractions of the Middle Class and their role in the capitalist system. Roughly speaking he sees the petit bourgeoisie (new and old) as today constituting as much as a third of society.Inspired by the work of Marxist thinkers such as Nicos Poulantzas, Evans terms this emergent class the ‘petty bourgeoisie’. Moving on from the inadequate binary of workers and bosses, he turns to the Greco-French Marxist sociologist Nicos Poulantzas’s analysis of class fractions.

Criticising the new petty bourgeoisie’s preoccupation with US-imported identity politics and cultural snobbery (the book’s garish cover makes a wonderful guilt trap for judgemental hipsters, as I discovered…), Evans insists that embracing structural politics is the only way to unite the fractured petty bourgeoisie – and the working class – behind a progressive vision. PMC personified, is able to portray himself as speaking to ‘authentic’ working-class concerns spurned by out-of-touch Corbynistas. Don’t forget: you can now sign up to our free weekly Substack newsletter to get news, features, interviews and reviews delivered direct to your inbox.The growth of this new class is a part of the process of deindustrialisation and the dominance of the services economy. They can’t settle down early because they’re busy chasing ‘knowledge economy’ jobs, and because urban housing is so expensive. A symbol for the ‘left behind’ working class who voted for Brexit, this was in reality a much broader social constituency. It is quite possible to be concerned with ‘socially liberal issues of “social justice”’ as well as economic justice, and this fusion was the Corbyn movement’s strongest element which the left could build upon. Even if the supervisor is a bit of a Lefty, they might be very low down the list of contacts, perhaps even someone we would steer clear from entirely, because their function in the workplace is to discipline workers below them.

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