For a better critical analysis of human pyramids
Is this... class war, or really just caste politics?
Class is an outdated attempt at socio-economically categorizing humans within the industrial society.
Marxists, especially the former Marxists, as well as all the Left tendencies inspired by Marxism, have relied on the same-old tripartite categorization of society dating back to Aristotle, now divided into three big classes. Contemporary sociologists of the Marxist schools of sociology will be using the stats of median income to show how they’re right about it; where indeed the «middle-class» exists and it’s been going down toward poverty levels in the last few decades, where the upper group of ultra-rich just kept getting wealthier and more powerful. All of it is true, yet only within a tiny, limited aspect of the mastodon. It shows us where most people are situated in terms of income, yet not saying much about all these people located elsewhere up or down the curve. That these people aren’t actually part of any unified class, within the tripartite model of “middle/proletarian”, “poor/lumpen”, or “rich”. In reality — or I mean closer to what could be the social reality — a median in statistics only best represents where a bell curve is located within a spectrum of linear-organized data.
Having lived through years of being on the workplace, in the streets, outside of academia, will reveal that the “world” is a much more complex and especially fluid, dynamic place; not made of categories and classes, but people. Especially groupings of people, constantly organizing and plotting for power. Either to gain more or maintain their “acquired rights”.
This narrow marxist interpretation also serves another purpose than showing the social inequalities capitalism creates. It is useful for hiding or overlooking the privilege-building or consolidation of these same groups of Left-oriented middle-class intelligentsia, or petty bourgeoisie commonly found backing Center-Left parties, NGOs, trade unions or more pervasively running a vast portion of the nonprofit sector, especially the sector more politically vocal about issues of social justice. They are struggling for their own elevation through the social ladder, in conflict with who they perceive – with a level of accuracy – as those limiting their access to higher positions of power.
Same goes for the «rich». As if you’d ask me, for instance, who is the richest person/family on the planet, that’s a question no one can definitely answer. Also an equally complex question : who are the « rich »? Not only wealth is a more complex notion than just net worth, but the super-wealthy do not only deal in monetary values... they’re also using other kinds of more «hard» assets and currencies like resources, precious metals, and now big data. The super-wealthy also tend to be super-connected people. Their wealth would not be very meaningful if this wasn’t a factor of power within social networks.
The question of their might makes it even more complicated when you look at their political schemes and networks. And even among this super-rich crowd, there are factions, milieus, gangs playing Monopoly with the world’s con-o-mies. Ever since Trump went into politics, for instance, this became clear there wasn’t only one power gang in the US, that the most repulsive of these, the White supremacist Christian ultra-conservatives, was engaged in an unprecedented battle against the neoliberal establishment, the dominant gang of the last few decades. This is even true in a totalitarian rule like China, who has different factions fighting within the Party, down to occasional vendettas, in order to consolidate power. Everywhere across capitalist societies there are smaller rich of the upper middle-class, all the way up to the mega-billionaires, with differing stakes in the industry, or gradients of political entry – and positions, from the progressive Left the Rothschild family and Soros to the ultra-conservative Far Right like Murdoch and the Koch.
Hence categorizing the “rich” is always more complicated than it seems. But to me, the ultra-rich aren’t as important as they used to be as social antagonists. I know they are doing terrible things, engaged in running awful schemes that keep billions of people into misery. And they are, in all appearance, holding the reins over governments, the media, NGOs you may work for, and most businesses you might work for.
However you might notice that your local progressive resources center for the homeless is managed by rather middle-class people. This is adequate, as here we are dealing with a charity service, notoriously structured by this same-old Christian binary relationship between haves mores and lesses, or between the higher-educated and the low-educated. The moment you’ll see a homeless resource center run by the homeless, well, that’ll no longer be charity, but rather autonomy. Yet social relations keep being structured into hierarchies between castes of different levels of privilege.
Society, being itself a wide-open pyramid scheme, is thus filled with a myriad of people involved in more or less filthy games that deprive others from having the same quality of life they enjoy. When it’s not about White nuclear families raveling in their comfy private bubbles on the countryside it’ll be urban hipsters keeping nice apartments for their artsy gangs of friends. You might even notice a level of disparities — and consolidation of privilege — within the milieus of the homeless, and the prisoners. But as usual, there’s a share of good economic motives behind all this privilege-building. In big cities targeted by intense gentrification, renters are better be organizing with friends, or building networks of friends, in order to share the rents between people they know so the rents remain as low as possible. That also gives the more radical-minded the possibility for conducting rent strikes on more large scales or do other kinds of anti-eviction or anti-hike campaigns that got more effects than just isolated renters filing formal complaints. Worker coops are a way for them to avoid « falling » in the streets by having decent self-managed jobs that may also contributed to accumulating social capital. As usual, collective organizing is a powerful flagship for gaining more power.
But then again, when more power is gained, what is done with it? When peer groups create their housing and workers’ coops, or even collectively-run squats wherever they still exist, what is the place left in their world, at the end of the day, to all the lesser-empowered outsiders? To those often ending up being — yet again — at the receiving ends of privilege-building social machinations. Being “socially-awkward”, being misfits or too “triggering” makes these seemingly more horizontal, democratic, collectivist schemes as yet again exclusive to those disabled, handicapped, aged, gendered, or just not enough socially-skilled for inclusion. Because, like in the rest of society, these projects are produced through in/out-crowd dynamics, generating social exclusion as byproduct. One way or another, it goes down to be facing locked doors, walls, fences, more sleeping on the sidewalks or at best navigating through precarious rents with deranged roommates… so therefore the social hierarchy of prisons is being maintained. Of course this has to do with landlords and « bosses » owning your life by the balls (e.g. a class relationship), but how do people also not reinforce this through caste dynamics? So even when these schemes are considered to be helpful or charitable, the separation they induce — here’s a place where these late Marxists known as the Situationists got it right) is still by essence, and functionally, alienating. However there is little doubt of the good that some of these people do, despite the alienating structures they’re working in.
How does a caste system works?
Essentially, with the reproduction of identitarian cults, clans or families, and more importantly their related cultures, that allows them to relate to each other. Culture — including cultural representations — is the tie that binds them; as cultures are being used as a means to reinforce the caste’s status quo, redefine its morals, and set the boundaries for inclusion/exclusion as well as serving other control imperatives. These aren’t patterns we observe through big social categories such as classes, that only defined by their mutual economic productive activity. The caste reproduces its own systems of representations and relations, beyond its mere socio-economic activity. The former actuates the other, and provides a kind of appeal, by hype, notoriety, prestige, edge, luxury or any other sort of added social value to it. A sense of privilege, without really providing with meaning.
I’ll be elaborating more on this in an upcoming text on countercultures and normalization, but in the Western rich urban hellholes we could have witnessed over the past years a movement from parts of the punk subcultures toward hipster, more streamlined upper castes of artsy citizenry. Mainstream fashion of the trendy urban lifestyles was reinvigorated by what used to be signifiers of marginal milieus... tattoos, piercings, punky black clothing and asymetric hairstyles, even dog-herding (that for some has been replaced with having children), are all now predictable, unsurprising elements of the urban environment, found in just about any of the world’s metropolis, even outside the Western world.
This has been a way to be part of the “in crowd”, to be accepted not not only into squats, but private rented spaces, get decent jobs at trendy hot spots, and more importantly, get relationships aplenty. That’ll be controversial to say about the same of the normalization of the “LGBTQ+” as social identities, that have played the same socio-economic roles and with the same ends, even tho by themselves they represent a fourre-tout of different minority gender identities and sexual preferences rallied together as one big category, for everyone under its banner to relate to regardless of its meaning for every one’s sensibility.
The idea is not to be criticizing any of these subcultures or their values, or even to be blaming urban trends for normalizing them, but to look into how caste dynamics are functioning, thanks in great parts to the use of cultural signifiers and their related politics. Also to realize how the individual, or the person as themself, is being kept silent and invisible by these caste politics, despite all the social media celebs, who’re really not standing for — and by — themselves but literally posing on a stage through a set of prefab representations. How if you aren’t identifying as one of the recognized identities, just choosing to identify as a “yourself”, or a “person”; this becomes a void for the social management of privilege and oppression. There are no non-gender pronouns for persons, only for lifeless objects, or groups to some extent.
This is — in my view — the deepest cause behind the epidemic of mass-killings we especially got in the US. While some of these are mostly based on demented ideologies of hate against more or less specific minority groups, many of the mass-killings are often committed by disenfranchised, misfit, socially-isolated males who for a reason or another, lacking a better analysis of what’s happening to them in this world, decide to stick it up to those they see as their most direct oppressors. Namely, the social castes in their environments. And in a way, it is true that crowd/mob dynamics tend to make human groupings in general to become more oppressive while losing self-awareness as their numbers increase in a given context.
If the Left would be truly understanding the dynamics of social exclusion, oppression and privilege, how do they work, perhaps they could be helping to some level against such sprees of murderous violence that only now benefits more despotic police controls of the public place. But the Left has remained stucked, as some anarchist critiques know, in this endless spiral of outdated analysis of social and political dynamics, centered on our well-known cartoonish representations produced by Marxists. Castes are defined by a lot more than just the productive activity of their members, and equally the socio-cultural reproduction that defines them goes beyond their mere socio-economic productive roles, when they got one in common, even if we consider society as meta-factory.
The issue of how Leftists could make it better, with a better analysis is beyond me. More so, it ain’t really my own interest. Still, I find it harder to not be caring about the mass-shootings, and in fact the « not in my lawn » approach to social problems might not so easily apply here, as anyone could potentially be affected by these sudden bursts of extreme interpersonal violence.
The purpose of such a perspective on social relations around us is to not be fooled by deluded beliefs in the radicality of our « projects » or initiatives, and to look at those with a more critically realistic lens that shows their shortcomings and weaknesses, standing in the way of the total anarchy or the social revolution you might be after. As to be reproducing caste relations can intrinsically undermine any initiative aimed at equity, autonomy or free association.
As I said too often, anarchists and nihilists have a specific opportunity — often wasted — of creating a social tabula rasa, that negates both the dynamics of privilege-building by putting the deeper issues of property and capital-building into question, while also, through patterns of free-based relations, to be making the issue of «social progress», pushed for decades by the Left, to become irrelevant.
Like there’s no need for work within the industry if we choose to liberate goods instead and creating a commons around everything, where everyone can enjoy shit without the trappings and hindrances of both bureaucracy and property, from being on welfare to «buying land», we’re still being submitted and deprived from an immediate relationship with the natural world. There’s no need for affordable housing if you find a way to occupy spaces for living, and especially shared living. There’s no need for better working conditions if you abolished the need for money — in the first place — in order to have good living conditions, as especially to be able... to just make friends, lovers, accomplices or just have a good conversation with some other human, regardless where they’re from. There’s no need for these demoralizing homeless shelters if you got organized squats where everyone has at least their shot at a living-together, and from which other occupation projects may arise.
The power of negation, is one not being asserted by the liberal agency. Neither the one of supposed « radicals ». Or this false negation will be held contained within their own communal bubbles, yet never outwardly-asserted. And in fact, the Marxists have an historical tendency at postponing negation, as revolution is an evolutionary process where, first, we must build the conditions for the proles to be able to negate the State and capital... as if they had found the secret to immortality!
Therefore, like with the rest of the liberal bourgeoisie, breaking the law, seeking pleasures against the dominant morals, will be reserved for the private space, of the caste, the communal in-crowd, or the family, or on a private island. And the more harmful immoralisms (such as rape, abuse and other violences) might also break loose due to the safety bubble promised by privatized spaces, in milieus where they hardly would be allowed to happen in broad daylight.
But are these really negation, or just reconstruction of same-old patterns of appropriation and exploitation, inherited from the dominant morals? A transgression ain’t necessarily negation of an order but rather its preset contradiction, as “rules are meant to be broken”. The “anti-” principle is not an “a-” principle, or abscence of principle; it is an against not a without. Satan exists because of God. So the bank robber or cryptominer is still after making big money, only innovating in their fulfillment of the well-known capitalist imperative (unless of course they throw the money in the streets). I ain’t saying it is wrong... only that it is not negation of an order and its values, where the person takes the liberty to make their own of the latter, asserts power over their own world, making themself emperor and god over it.
Absolute negation of all orders — the questioning of everything — is what is necessary to revert the power of the totality over ourselves. Therefore we cannot truly avoid or abolish these caste relations that separate us both from each other and from ourselves — as well as the world around us — without putting their imperatives, values under the crushing mill of the cold, concrete logic of total negation.
Property is not only theft. Fundamentally “property” is just not something that exists. Your comfort zone known as your household, or friend’s commune, or mansion on top of the hill... are only a privatized space made-up by capitalism’s territorializations and reinforced by walls, doors and locks. It is only «real» as far as it is a relational construct, enforced by the threat of judicial or interpersonal violence. You cannot pretend anarchism, even less «communism» while at the same time enjoying these levels of privilege provided to you by an invisible, unavowed caste system. Well you can... of course! But that is more of the same-old Victorian hypocrisy, reinforced by equally Victorian-era ideologies pretending to oppose the dominant system. You may choose to be a conservative so to be less an hypocrite — indeed — yet the status quo of the caste system will be maintained, only more bare. My postulate, that is not so important to consider, is that 19th century classical liberalism has kept Western civilization from being a full-fledged official caste system, or at least this was delayed by a century of class-defined struggles.
Regardless. The wild, the feral, the natural domain does not know these territorializations. Or neither cares about if they know. The wild one only cares about their own sustenance, protection, pleasure and well-being. Anything else, any attempt at accommodating with any level or sphere within the caste system, means becoming more civilized, or over-civilized, as these are the mostly-intangible yet highly-recognizable walls of civilization, defined by culture above politics and economics. A vagabond can keep freeloading luxury hotels or chic cafés, in order to partly avoid the misery related to homelessness, or even hang out at student parties or exec clubs, but what will chase him off from these spheres will not be their bank account, official status or even their political allegiances; it will be their external appearance, their tenure, their speech and etiquette.. or lack thereof. As the cultural standards are what makes these social categories to be castes. Not classes. Because, to repeat, castes are culturally-defined — more than socio-economically defined — groupings.
So I am not here posturing for an anticiv purity by rejecting caste relations; but this could be useful as an ideal for a direction. Or giving rationale and analysis to a life where the radical critical thought makes you a social misfit, anyways. It can be interesting to be social hacking across the cultural layers of this garbage every caste uses to reinforce themselves, and many of us do achieve this, to different levels of effectiveness. But then again, will be driven by a will that is your own, or only reflect the desires mass-produced for the masses to follow? As for every caste there are different means and modes to attain what everyone in this society is after.
Doesn’t the wild one only contents in seeking power over their own existence? Why, otherwise, would they be seeking any larger power, if not for chasing the aims defined by the dominant power dynamics? For having the privileges they envy so much from any of the castes above them, or for « ruling in Hell, instead of serving in Paradise »?
Perhaps because such dynamics as the terrorism of the judicial system are hindering on this self-power. That the goal would not be to become yet another layer of judicial system, like the call-out culture appears to be doing.
There lies the importance of the initial thesis of this tension. That the Marxist and Marxist-leaning tendencies of the Left have been from the start adopting the class struggle analysis in a way as to brute-force the emancipation of people only through their own hierarchical systems. This is why they’ll always be confined, mentally-restrained, to the notion that any self-empowerment, self-defense, and liberation can only be attained through mass social avenues and means; as these reflect, more deeply, the need for empowerment of a more or less specific caste of «intelligent» educated middle-class people, over what they’ll always perceive as a mass of people who are in the dark, who need saviors or organizers or hot-blooded, loud-talking revolutionary leaders to pull them out of their politically-induced trance.
Not to say this was the case of enlightened, fearless rebels like Fred Hampton, Geronimo, Novatore or Harriet Tubman. These were in my opinion more like the feral ones that undermined the consolidated powers of their times, the society subjected to a predominant caste. Needless to say… you’ll also notice they were also not our well-known arrogant, power-hungry White college kids from the suburban middle-classes.
So the Marxists need this vague, Cartesian model for a social category — the class — that is inherently defined by a position within the production chain of Industrial Society. As in their view, one cannot be else than a Worker, or a Prole (and perhaps including the lumpen prole) in order to take part in this class struggle toward the liberation of all the Workers. But are these leaders, or organizers, ever been really the Workers they claim to be leading to liberation? Aren’t they instead positing for their own empowerment over the Workers, by the use of these Workers workforce to push for a change of power dynamics, where this intelligentsia caste attain a higher privileged status within the processes of production? In the neoliberal society the best they’ll do is to have well-paid white collar positions, perhaps even an entry into state politics within a minority party. Which doesn’t discount for the sleazy corruption of the lawyers and real-estate profiteers taking higher positions of power within the dominant parties. But, restating the obvious that I said earlier, they’re all chasing the same sausage, only through slightly different means and modes. And think about... if they’d, once again, come to terms with the whole capitalist state like the Soviets did, they’d have the highest positions in society!
So you are anticapitalist? Great. But “anticapitalist”, just like “antifa”, is a negative position, which doesn’t say much as the kind of world you want in the place of the existent order. What does it means to you in daily life, beyond a few protests and graffiti?
You are maybe communist? Super. And given it is still subversive thing in many parts of the Western world, this gives you a little of rebellious edge. But then again, whose communism? If you are only after the Commune then which commune are we talking about? The Communal form of property Marx himself told us about, that the Ancient Greeks invented, those brutally partiarchic, slave-owning landlords, who weren’t that different, actually from the Founding Fathers? The Commune of Friends, where all you need is to become a “Friend” in order to be included and treated as equal? So what is it you call a Friend, then?
My intent here is not to drag everyone in the mud of their own grandiose projects or claims (no matter how I’d love to!) but to be looking into what people are really after, and for whose specific interest. As, like a Stirner would say, as far as the Commune is not my own, or as long it is not knocking at my door for any friendly motives, it is strange to myself; it means nothing to me, as it is only to the benefit of a specific group of others.
Not only it is not so much benefiting to me, but a very vague mass of «proles», comrades or Friends that I may or may not be part of, depending on the analysis of the leading core group in charge of defining the social categories and their narratives (also known as the “ID politicians”). And only my being included as a proletarian comrade I may benefit from the leftovers of this nomenklatura. I do eat the leftovers of proles on a regular basis, as part of my means of survival and for secondary ecological aims, but it is never as retribution for serving under the wing of this social category.
The world is driven not by money, but by narratives and their representations.
There were times where men couldn’t live without God. Or without a hunt. Or without fire. Equally, a « world run by money » is a capitalist, materialist narrative of the late industrial age. Such narrative, just like any other, becomes existent due to its supportive system of power relations. Yet it won’t necessarily be meaningful… most often it won’t. If you let yourself be defined and driven by these, written and drawn by a group of others, you let yourself, again and again, be fooled and controlled by the group(s) enforcing it, then it will become an unavoidable fact of existence. Hence this group de facto becomes a caste above you... the hierarchs owning all the secrets of your forever-delayed liberation. Accepting them to define me is accepting the hinges of their control over me.
And let’s make it clear to some of my potential detractors, that the Marxist Left here was used only as example among many other iterations. The Far Right or Alt Right, as we could witness over the past few years, tends to be more successful these days at their games of gaining domination over yet another mass of (much) less educated/intelligent peoples for their own caste benefit. They are, after all, connected to specific groups — the old White supremacist aspect of the wealthy establishment — fighting to regain the power they apparently lost through the Post-War, and especially post-Civil Rights Era neoliberal order. Instead of the class, they’ll be using the more retrograde social categories of race and/or national identity. These were, after all, the first identity politics of the Modern world, in the republican, industrial, post-religious world where scientism and Nation-States purportedly replaced the old religious ideologies. The retrograde Alt Right, more classic liberal than actually conservative (and much less « libertarian »), equally got their own priests and popes of social justice, pandering on inherently shallow, brutish definitions of the «human» as if due to being older, or before, they were any more accurate or righteous than the recent «corruption» of the LGBTQ+, the Women and the non-White social identities, undermining their former, ages-old domi-nation over bodies. Are these new categories produced by the new Left and reproduced by the social media empires – led by White normative men, by the way — any more authentic or accurate? I doubt that.
The only social identity that is accurate, is yours, or mine. The question that you may represent, not the prêt-à-porter answer. That is the only one, removed from even the official citizen and corporate definition enforced by the state from shortly after your birth as physical living being- that can define you.
Who are you? Or what are you?
Am I, the author, in a position to know better than you? I only know, for sure, that you may not be what you pretend, but something more, or less, or else. You may even possibly exist!