Sunday, April 28, 2013

Michael Zweig Reflection: Six Points on Class

This piece summarizes briefly six points about class, focusing on class consciousness and class division, what creates these divisions, why they are problematic, and what class means on a global scale. The points are as follows: 1) We need to change the understanding of class in the United States, going from the division of "rich and poor" to the division of "worker and capitalist."
2)The usual talk of a mass middle class with some rich and poor at the fringes around it is deeply misleading and contributes to two central problems in American politics.
3) The reality of race and class in the Katrina-devastated Gulf Coast is dramatically different from the "lessons of race and class" the media touted immediately after the catastrophe.
4) Identifying class forces accurately is an essential starting point for more effective politics to turn back the right-wing tide that has swept across the United States with growing power for nearly forty years.
5) Class operates on a global scale.
6) Class is an idea for a movement of ideas.

I agree with all the points presented and their synopses, and none of the information presented really surprised me at all even if I didn't exactly know it in the context of Zweig's facts and language. Having been involved with the Occupy movement, a lot of the information presented weren't exactly new concepts to me. Firstly, I'd like to talk about the division of "worker and capitalist" versus the division of "rich and poor". I agree with Zweig's point and understand how these two are very different. When referring to the capitalists, Zweig is referring to the upper 1-2 percent of the U.S. population that has a stake in corporations, the global economy, and is at the top in terms of the distribution of wealth. He goes on to talk about how the working class makes up the majority of the U.S. population, the middle class is just about a third of it, and the capitalists are the upper couple percent essentially dominating the lives and workforces of those below. I also agree with Zweig's issue with the terminology for the "middle class." As a result of discussion of the middle class, we lose sight of race and class and also lose sight of the political target, according to Zweig. This makes sense, since the middle class really consists of those who are actually working class but have a little more power and entitlement. Zweig also argues that power is and should be the core of any discussion about class, not the amount of wealth, income or property involved. This is an intersectional argument that recognizes that the quantity of belongings does not necessarily equate to the amount of power one has over one's lifestyle and decisions, since there is so much that is systemic, racist, sexist, etc. that we are being distracted from, and we are actually feeding into the nature of divisiveness and capitalism by defining class structures on the basis of possessions.
I also appreciate Zweig's points about Katrina and the ways in which the media utilized words like race and class but actually only meant black and poverty. There was no larger discussion surrounding Katrina that had anything to do with class and the ways that race and class were tied together systemically causing some people to suffer greatly while others on higher land and with more resources made it out just fine, which is something we've discussed in class a bit. A lot of the time the media throws around language like race, class, capitalism, socialism, etc. without ever actually discussing or defining it's terms but only presenting it in terms of the context of the situation, causing Americans to be persuaded by the tone and context of the issue rather than having a critical understanding of it. I think overall this piece was useful but didn't shock me or present me with anything I haven't already thought about, but I appreciate the way it ties systems of oppression in with our understanding of class and capitalism and found it to be a nice tie up for the end of the semester.

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