Saturday, June 4, 2016

Devotion to Vulcan Brought Changes in Class Structure

Throughout the history of Olympia, societies have always organized their members into four social classes based on the power exercised by each. The top class has always been the ruling class. Its members set the rules for the rest of us. The middle class provides the managers of people, processes, and information needed by the ruling class. The working class consists of those people who actually do the work, especially the physical labor, of society. The bottom of this social scale is occupied by the marginal class: those who don’t fit into any other class or society in general. Historically, we always find four classes: rulers, managers, workers, and outcasts.
While this class structure endures, there are plenty of historical variations within it. Changes over time include the size of each class, the relative power of one class over others, the rate of social mobility between classes, and what it takes to become a ruler.

In Perspectives on Our Age (1981), Jacques Ellul writes that, in 1850 in western Olympia, one had to be a capitalist, or someone with lots of money, to become or remain a ruler. “The capitalists held the power because they held the economic instrument [i.e. money] on which everything depended” (45).
Ellul then points out that technology gradually changed that. By 1950, with the arrival of the technological society, having money wasn’t enough to become or remain a ruler. One had to have technological expertise or rely on others who did. In our contemporary technological context, “success depends not on what you have, but on what you know” (45). In other words, “[t]he person owning capital privately is becoming less and less important, compared with the person who activates his or her capital within the ensembles of technological operations” (45).
Our rulers, now, are the technocrats who know how to efficiently organize vast resources with the goal of growing the Global Technological System (GTS) for the glory of Vulcan (god of technology) and their own self-centered benefit at the expense of everyone and all else. These technocrats, these technological elites, are chiefly corporate elites but include governmental elites with similar technological knowledge and skill. Because of the exponential growth of technology, today’s primary division in social class “is no longer between the owners of capital and the proletariat, but between those who control the bureaucratic, administrative, scientific, and other technologies, and those who do not control them” (46).
Today’s rage against capitalists on behalf of workers is over one hundred years out-of-date. Today we don’t even have corporate and governmental elites or private and public elites. Instead, we have a single ruling class of technological elites and everyone else.
The middle class has changed too. “[T]he classical bourgeoisie, the bourgeoisie of independent means, has disappeared. The middle class has now moved toward technological functions…” (46). Today’s managers of people, processes, and information, like today’s rulers, can only maintain their social position by developing technological expertise.
Same too with today’s working class. They must have technical training to stay employed. Gone are the days when one could learn how to repair a car without going to school, getting certified, and being able to use electronic diagnostic equipment. Gone even are the days when one could legally get paid for watching children, or caring for older people, without schooling and a license.
As for the marginal class, it is doomed to grow exponentially. As the GTS grows, it will continue to make managers and workers redundant and force them into the marginal class. As for the billions of people already there, the GTS will leave them with even fewer ways to survive.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.