If the first post in this series was, vaguely about the working class and the second about the elite, then this is the post about the middle class. Probably the hardest to analyse, since I'm from some sort of middle class background myself.
But then, who isn't? In a discussion with blogger tray here, there was a discussion about two posters, one supposedly elitist and the other one supposedly working class. Yet I can pretty much bet you that both posters were made by people who consider themselves middle class. And yes, certainly, as Gavin points out here, so do many party oriented rappers, Lil Jon among them. Or David Banner, who's got a masters degree in business administration. Isn't he middle class? Obviously what's middle-class varies from caricature to caricature, just as the term hipster does.
A university, for one, is a largely middle-class environment (having free universities like in Sweden barely changes that). Yet on any campus you're going to find vastly different attitudes - from the small town kid there to receive some sort of professional training and to party, to the utterly pretentious wannabe academic pursuing a Bildungsideal. The square and the hipster and the nerd coexist, all middle-class. Hardcore punk? Middle class. Easy listening? Middle Class.
The middle-class, quite simply, diverges. According to Neo-marxist Nicos Poulantzas (link in Swedish) it's because they have a choice. Unlike the upper class, who are bound for leadership positions, or the working class, who are bound for subservient manual labour, the middle class can go one of several ways. They can become "intellectual workers" (not, says Poulantzas disdainfully, intellectuals) who occupy a position similar to the working class when seen from above, low-level white-collar workers. Or they can be close to the high bourgeoisie in various management positions. This choice is made as early as middle-school, by selecting out some students over others. I can see this in my own family, where I'm the intellectual kid who's gone on to adopt (like it or not) bourgeois values to some extent, whereas my three older siblings have had a very different attitude. My sister went to college for four years and she's a naprapath, but she's certainly not the kind of middle-class person who'd be invoking neo-marxists in a blog discussion. She's not part of any silly Habermasian bourgeois public sphere.
Still, there's something about the choice idea that rings hollow. I certainly felt expectations from my upper-middle-class parents to go to university for my personal development mostly, and I'm not sure the white-collar worker's kids look at it the same way. Maybe the biggest distinction between the fractions of the middle class is not strictly economical but a divide between different attitudes? Or to put it another way: I can well conceive of Lil Jon's parents being doctors. But I could never, ever conceive of them being artists. Or sociologists.
There's a complex system of attitudes in the middle class, dividing up people into different groupings. Liberal social worker? Read the Guardian, shop at second hand stores, listen to Michael Franti. And so on. Actually, supposedly taste in music is a great sociological predictor for the other attitudes - and the recently publicised study on the subject is entirely missing the point. It's not your personality determining your taste in music - it's your role in society that determines both how you're supposed to act and what music you're supposed listen to.
Maybe intellectual parents who are worried about their kids underperforming in school should make them become fans of progressive house or something, and everything will be all right...
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