Political Ideology and Class Formation: A Study of the Middle Class

By Carolyn Howe | Go to book overview

2
Five Theories on the Structure and Politics of the Middle Class

The traditional Marxist contention that the working class would be a revolutionary vanguard in capitalist societies has been challenged by recent work done under the rubric of "postindustrial" theory. The several variants of this theory contend that a new stratum of wage earners, whose performance of mental labor has become increasingly central to the functioning of the system, is now the chief embodiment of anticapitalist or left-of-center political sentiment. The importance of this stratum, moreover, derives from an understanding that in advanced capitalist societies, knowledge has become a force of production; knowledge controllers, such as technical, scientific, and professional workers, are thus cast into the pivotal position once occupied by manual workers.

Postindustrial theory establishes the broad outlines of an implicit theoretical controversy over the class location and politicalideological attitudes of knowledge controllers. There are five contending theories within this controversy, which vary both on the class location of knowledge controllers and other middle-class strata and the characterization of their political attitudes. Each theory is based on a relational approach to class and each acknowledges a debt to Marx's analysis of capitalism and class struggles within capitalist society. Each theory argues that changes in the political economy of capitalism have given rise to the specific

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