The Real Story Behind the Crash and Burn of America's Managerial Class
Barbara and John Ehrenreich: The Real Story Behind the Crash and Burn of America's Managerial Class
How the rise and fall of the professional-managerial class has impacted the last hundred years.
February 19, 2013 |
Every would-be populist in American politics purports to defend the “middle class,” although there is no agreement on what it is. Just in the last couple of years, the “middle class” has variously been defined as everybody, everybody minus the 15 percent living below the federal poverty level; or everybody minus the very richest Americans. Mitt Romney famously excluded “those in the low end” but included himself (2010 income $21.6 million) along with “80 to 90 percent” of Americans. The Department of Commerce has given up on income-based definitions, announcing in a 2010 report that “middle class families” are defined “by their aspirations more than their income (…). Middle class families aspire to home ownership, a car, college education for their children, health and retirement security and occasional family vacations”—which excludes almost no one.
Class itself is a muddled concept, perhaps especially in America, where any allusion to the different interests of different occupational and income groups is likely to attract the charge of “class warfare.” If class requires some sort of “consciousness,” or capacity for concerted action, then a “middle class” conceived of as a sort of default class—what you are left with after you subtract the rich and the poor—is not very interesting.
But there is another, potentially more productive, interpretation of what has been going on in the mid-income range. In 1977, we first proposed the existence of a “professional-managerial class,” distinct from both the “working class,” from the “old” middle class of small business owners, as well as from the wealthy class of owners. ...............(more)