Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The situation of middle class work vs. working class work

What separates the two. Both the working class and the bourgeois middle class have a work ethic. To say that the middle class work ethic is bullshit and to advocate having no work ethic is to miss the point. But, there are differences, and the differences in my opinion stem from the point that people in the respective class positions start out from in the work world.

Middle class and well off folks work, but growing up they're raised in the context of soccer games and summer camps, of activities promoted by their parents to make them better candidates for college as well as to develop their character. They have opportunities to study, they go on vacations with their family, and, when they get to be teenagers, they work. Their parents have good jobs, but they want to instill more discipline in their kids, so their kids get a traditional job of working at McDonalds or do something else part time, and work over the summers.

When they get to college, the mixture of privilege and work persists, albeit in a more attenuated form. The middle class kids have to put in more effort out than they have before, in job work and academically, yet they're still surrounded by the social relationships and benefits that they grew up with, that do not disappear completely. Only, this time, they'reThis is quite different from the lives of working class kids.

Finally, after college graduation the middle class kids find themselves in the work world. They pursue careers, with some stop gap jobs in between, but because they haven't had to really struggle for anything that they've got, they're in a better situation to find good work and pursue those careers than their working class compadres. They have connections from their parents, their family, and their community that help them to find good jobs as well. And yet, their work, their achievement, the products of their work ethic, are viewed as being fairly matched against those of the working class.

How different all this is from people who have had to struggle from the start to get where they are, who haven't experienced work as something their parents made them do but something they've done because they've had to. How different is this from the lives of people who didn't have parents to cart them around, to pay for after school activity on top of after school activity, who don't get tutoring or prep sessions for the SAT, who don't go on mind broadening vacations, and never experience summer camp. Because of the immense class divide in public education, the children of the middle class get opportunities to for classes that their less well off cousins never dream of, to go on school trips that would be unthinkable, and to participate in as many different clubs and groups as are possible. Yet, because they're still going to a public school, the children of the middle class can claim to not be the privileged, not like those other people who attend private schools.

 The two classes of people go into the world, supposedly as equals, to compete in the market place. Of course, bourgeois people have as much of a 'work ethic' as their working class cousins.  The element of true struggle, though, is absent, and when they participate as 'equals' in the job market, working class kids have had to struggle to even get to the basic level the bourgeois kids start at, and often this is not even recognized, or regarded as a factor to their credit. Instead, their lack of attractive, exotic, activities and achievements,  are regarded as indications of laziness. So it goes. The slim exotica of the working class competes against the freely received privileges of the bourgeois, and the equality of competition reigns supreme.

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