October 29, 2006

From John Buell: the entitled, the dispossessed, and the marginal John Buell raises some interesting points in comments below to my post on the relation between economy and politics. Here is an excerpt from them, but the longer version is well worth reading: I think progressives should move away from a rhetoric of rich and poor and instead talk about a three tiered socio-economic class system—the entitled, the disposed, and the marginalized middle class. The dispossessed suffer not only from rigged job markets but urban development projects that uproot them and selectively harsh law enforcement through the so called drug war. Deindustrialization and outsourcing even of many middle class jobs leave many middle and working class families desperate to hang on to their standard of living and sense of identity. Meanwhile, the wealthy now view their success in the market as not merely a consequence of their skills but as a permanent entitlement, a proof of their own moral worth and they have used their economic power to shape public policy—including both appropriations, lobbying techniques, redistricting, media consolidation-- that reflects this sense of entitlement. Consumption patterns play a role in both the expression and cementing of this class structure, a reason why I think the concept of consumer tends to displace older views of citizens. Luxury consumption doesn’t merely increase expectations but also fosters new needs. Cell phones start as expensive toys, but as they spread to the upper middle class, public pay phones are eliminated in many locales and many who even hate cell phones find themselves compelled to...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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