Theme: “The Death of Objective Analysis”
Nowadays a lot of attempts to explain trends in the world, when applied to politics, are immediately discounted as ‘Conspiracy Theories’. Any attempt to identify those forces driving political change and events in the world nowadays is automatically derided as a ‘conspiracy theory’. Unfortunately it has become too easy in this way to block any attempt at objective political analysis by hurling this abuse at those brave enough to dare it.
The fact is that there are groups of people in the world who share common interests, and who seek to further those interests through the medium of politics. The concept of classes is an exceedingly useful one in this case, but one tainted by the particular history of misuse of this word.
In the nineteenth century when Marx was writing, the word ‘class’ was used by mathematicians and philosophers as an alternative to the word ‘set’. A class or a set are the same thing: “A group of objects united by sharing common attributes”.
We can apply the class concept to political and social analysis by defining it as: “A group of people who share certain common interests”. Note well, it is not necessary for members to share all interest or attributes, just the ones that define the set.
It is natural that people belonging to the same functionally defined class will act individually towards a common goal, because they are pursuing a common interest. It does not require any organisation or men in black to mastermind or direct this movement or current in politics. It is self-organising. In individually pursuing their own self-interests, they work towards a common aim. Furthermore groups of people within the ‘class’ may inhabit similar niches in society and thus actively communicate and co-operate with each other over interests they share. Again there is no need for an overarching leadership, no secret committee of the ‘illuminati’.
Within society there are groups of people who share different interests, different ‘classes’. Sometimes the interests of one class will conflict with those of another. The result may be a ‘class struggle’ or a ‘class war’. It is a simple reality of political life, not a conspiracy theory, or a piece of Marxist ideology.
In our current world a most typical class struggle is between different ethnic or sectarian groups for control of the state. In the west the concept of the ‘Nation State’ seems simple, ‘One state, one government and one nation, meaning one ethnicity.’ There are minorities, but they are marginal politically, and must pursue their political interests largely through the institutions designed and controlled by the dominant majority culture.
Sadly for the world, the west which seeks to tutor the rest of the world on how to solve their problems, does not understand that in most countries this over-simplistic view of the nation state is not very relevant. In most countries society is divided between different ‘classes’, based on ethnicity, religious sect et cetera. These groups have their distinct social networks. Each is suspicious of being ruled by the other. The groups compete with each other for control of the state.
The west’s simple solution to all political problems, namely ‘parliamentary democracy’ just doesn’t work. Political parties segregate along the ‘class’ lines. Parliament becomes a battleground of beggar my neighbour politics, each class trying to block policies of the other. Suspiciousness means that even policies which benefit both may be rejected by one if proposed by the other. Parliament becomes a civil war without guns, but often involves punches and verbal abuse.
Those progressive individuals who seek to set up political parties on universal principles find themselves with one seat in the house, or losing their deposit. The fact is that the practical benefits of promoting your own social networks vastly outweigh such high minded philosophy. It plugs into something deep in biology, but has a contemporary reality and relevance which cannot and will not be dismissed as mere ‘atavism’. It works for people.
In our western democratic societies different classes are in a struggle along economic lines. Some classes are more powerful than others, have more resources, more wealth and consequently more influence on the direction of the state than others. Such power imbalances belie the concept of democracy as being reflected by ‘one man one vote’.
Of greater importance is the responsiveness of the state to your class. Elected politicians are the instruments of government, not necessarily the source of government policy. Government policies are a response by the state to the influences of different classes, a continually shifting balance between the direct influence of smaller, wealthy, powerful classes and the weight of numbers of poorer, less directly influential classes. Who is elected is less important than the undercurrents of these battles for influence over the state and how they evolve.