We live now in a world cast in the image of the professional managerial class, or PMC. Our politics—from the response to Trump and Brexit to the Covid crisis and now anti-Russian hysteria—reflects their whims, prejudices, and psychopathologies. Every few months, they launch a new crusade that serves their interests. Black Lives Matter became an occasion to present populist political movements as inveterately racist. Covid permitted them to arrange more favorable working conditions, while presenting truckers and others as dangerous extremists. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine became the occasion for presenting their enemies as the agents, or unwitting dupes, of the Kremlin.
The PMC doesn’t have the numbers of the working class nor the economic power of the capitalist class. So what explains its influence over contemporary society? Many Marxists today seem to eschew class explanations, which are derided as “class reductionist” or as misogynistic or racist to the extent they marginalize gendered or racial forms of oppression. Yet the “vulgar” Marxist account, in fact, gives a compelling account of the basic structure of class conflict today—and of the PMC’s position in society. Indeed, one might even argue that these days, the more “vulgar” the Marxism, the more accurate a picture of society it will tend to offer.
On what we might then call a particularly vulgar Marxist account, it is class struggle that provides not just the motor to history, but also gives the capitalist class its dynamism and historically progressive role. It isn’t the innate genius and inventiveness of the bourgeoisie that drives society forward, but the threat of rule by the proletariat. The defeat of organized labor across the globe beginning in the 1970s was also a defeat for the capitalist class. For without class struggle, the capitalist class sooner or later runs adrift.