About EKOS Politics

We launched this website in order to showcase our election research, and our suite of polling technologies including Probit and IVR. We will be updating this site frequently with new polls, analysis and insight into Canadian politics. EKOS's experience, knowledge and sophisticated research designs have contributed positively to many previous elections.

Other EKOS Products

In addition to current political analysis, EKOS also makes available to the public general research of interest, including research in evaluation, general public domain research, as well as a full history of EKOS press releases.

Media Inquires

For media inquires, please contact: Frank Graves President EKOS Research Associates t: 613.235-7215 fgraves@ekos.com

From the End of History to the End of Progress

THE SHIFTING MEANING OF MIDDLE CLASS

By Frank Graves

Presentation to the Queen’s 2014 International Institute on Social Policy

Kingston, Ontario
August 19, 2014

Click here for a PDF version of this presentation: From the End of History to the End of Progress (August 19, 2014)

Click here for a PDF version of this presentation: From the End of History to the End of Progress (August 19, 2014)

3 comments to From the End of History to the End of Progress

  • I bet basic income would provide the financial security and job flexibility people want. It would also strengthen the lower and working class. It wouldn’t solve all the problems but I think it’s something to seriously consider in this economy.

  • Bud

    Surprised that the role of technology didn’t come up more. Ever smarter and more capable machines are an escalating threat to jobs at all levels.

  • interesting polling project.

    the two comments left here a little more than a year ago are similar to what i want to say, which indicates that the solutions are “in the air”, but i think it’s maybe useful to back up a little bit.

    we often compare the current period of unfettered neo-liberal capitalism (or whatever you want to call it – unregulated capitalism, “really existing capitalism” – or perhaps “late capitalism” if you want to really poke fukuyuma in the eye) to the gilded age, but is that really a good comparison? globally, perhaps. when we think of the gilded age, we get images of dickensian factory labourers. kids working as chimney sweeps. and, the conditions that a lot of things we buy are made in overseas may mirror those conditions.

    but, the issues we’re facing in north america are not related to poor working conditions, but to a lack of employment, itself. it’s more of the luddite critique. but, could the luddites actually be right, this time? and, if they are, is it cause for alarm or cause for celebration?

    the existence of the middle class was predicated on the existence of labour in the first place. on one hand, it was fought for through union struggles. but, the left romanticizes this to a degree that is perhaps too self-congratulatory, and largely fantastical. the existence of the middle class has a lot to do with the adoption of fordism [the idea that workers should be able to buy the products they make], and the use of keynesian policies to break the cyclic downturns and keep workers buying.

    but, there needs to be workers for there to be fordism. and there needs to be jobs for there to be workers. we’re looking at tactics that worked in the past and pondering whether they can be emulated, but not questioning if the conditions are comparable. and, i would argue that they are not.

    moving forwards, we are not going to see a return to the kind of workforce that made fordism possible, or keynesianism viable. we’re going to see increasing mechanization. robots can never be members of the middle class. they are necessarily slave labourers. in a society that is veering in this direction, there is no place for a middle class of comfortable labourers – there is only space for a professional class of financial managers and technocrats, and a wide swath of low wage drone workers. and, even the drone workers that we see around us everywhere – in everything from fast food to retail – are on the brink of obsolescence. the day you order a big mac on a computer screen is the day the economy implodes. and, that day is not merely close but entirely imminent.

    this requires a deeper rethink. but, as pointed out, the answers are in front of us. far from being the end of progress, these answers are the resurrection of it. instead of being partisan and ideological, let’s look at history as though it is a progress for a minute. i’m citing engels here, but that’s not important.

    nobody doubts that liberalism was designed to maximize freedom; some claim it’s framers were naive, others claim they were just wrong, but nobody doubts the intention. and, maybe i’m naive myself, but i think it’s an entirely reasonable economic arrangement – under certain conditions. the first condition is that everybody has to own property. the second is that everybody has to own themselves. if every individual can produce their own products with their own labour, indeed if they even *must*, it is a system than can maximize individual freedom – and if everybody is working in freedom to carry out their own goals, society should be the better for it.

    but, then we had the industrial revolution, and it abolished those assumptions. individual workers could not compete with the machines, and became converted into wage labourers. property was eaten up by the people that owned the factories. and, it did not make sense to work against this. within this vacuum, socialism was born as a way to apply the ideals of liberalism to an industrial society. we never got to communism, but i’d take fordism over stalinism or maoism any day. it took some fighting, a few scares, some bad crashes – but we got there. for a while.

    now that mechanization has taken over, and we are exiting industrial society and entering a mechanized society, we need to ask the same question: how do we apply the liberal ideals of self-ownership within a post-industrial society? and, the answers seem to have one thing in common: we need to find a way to take ownership of the machines that we now all rely so heavily on out of the control of a minority and into broad, public oversight. exactly how this is to be accomplished is up to us to determine together. but, it seems clear that it is the answer. and, it seems clear that most people know that it is the answer.

    freedom on the other side of mechanization could be true liberation. legitimate emancipation.

    but, we have to get our heads around it first. and, that means, first and foremost, that we have to understand that the idea of a middle class is a historical relic of a technological era that we’ve moved out of.

Leave a Reply