Common Sense Comes to Town!

Common sense is the most fairly distributed thing in the world, for each one thinks he is so well-endowed with it that even those who are hardest to satisfy in all other matters are not in the habit of desiring more of it than they already have. (Descartes)

Debunking the Class Struggle Myth

Posted on | October 26, 2010 | No Comments

On a bulletin board I read frequently, the topic of class struggle was recently brought up. Surprisingly enough, those discussing the topic took it quite seriously, and really believed that these so-called classes were homogeneous, autonomous and self-motivated entities. Since I think it somewhat appalling that such notions could live well into the twenty-first century, allow me to share a few ideas on the subject matter.

To accept the notion of class struggle, to accept even the existence of an entity known as “class” equates accepting the existence of a force more powerful than biology, local culture, and the near physical and economic environment. In discourse, the classes are always the same, no matter the context: capitalist bourgeoisie vs. the proletariat. This means an international plot aiming to back the domination of an elite constituted of members who do not know one another and may live thousands of kilometres apart. This then explains why evil capitalists tend to act in their own interest and, most importantly, in the interest of their brethren even when they do not stand to gain. How could we otherwise explain the apparently concerted behaviour of these people?

This reminds me an argument brought by the geneticist, Richard Dawkins, about the flight of flocks of starlings, which resembles an elaborate choreography staged by thousands of individuals. In fact, each bird only answers to a limited number of local rules concerned with the immediate surroundings: are there other birds, how far are they and how fast do they go? Local units answer local rules. When the number of units reaches into the thousands, the impression is on the whole rather impressing. Nevertheless, it would make no sense to believe that a superior will is masterminding the entire flock.

The same can be said of humans. We obey local rules in a defined environment. Mostly we try not to lose what we have gained, and try to increase our assets. We react in certain ways in order to prevent opportunists to play in our field, while making a grab for as much resources as we can get. Multiply these rules by thousands, millions of individuals and you end up with many different layers which, from afar, appear homogeneous. These layers, these classes, can be useful measuring tools, but they remain nothing but consequences of local rules, not their cause.

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