The Antiplanner argues that the “missing” middle class is really a re-establishment of the working class as a separate entity from the middle class.  He points to two-tiered marketing strategies as evidence of this phenomenon.  To an extent, I am willing to agree with him, but I believe that he is stealing an intellectual base by talking about “the apparent lack of social mobility of many of those who are stuck in the working class” (emphasis mine).  I would need to see a longitudinal study to show individuals and the children of individuals in one class are tightly bound to that class.

NOTE:  I’m not a fan of talking about classes in general.  Part of this is my inherent anti-Marxism, and another part my belief that the aggregates, in this case, blur meaningful distinctions.  Nevertheless, it’s easier for me to discuss this using the term ‘class’ rather than a more accurate depiction of the groups of individuals.  Just imagine that I’m gritting my teeth and/or rolling my eyes every time you read the word.

But let’s suppose that this is an accurate phenomenon.  Even if we suppose its veracity, I would argue that there is another answer which could fill the gap:  culture.  Specifically, we are comparing the 1950s-1960s to today.  What was the primary advertising and cultural medium during that era?  Television.  And to whom did television stations cater?  The middle class folks who bought products.  There weren’t many channels during this era, and so broadcasters were focusing on a core audience of middle-class individuals.  There were other media which focused more on working class culture (some newspapers, magazines, and often radio stations), but television was the dominant medium during this time.  So, to an extent, television pushed working class individuals to aspire to middle class values.

Starting in the 1970s, however, you see the advent of cable television as a mass market force.  With cable, you have room for all kinds of channels:  hunting and fishing, soap operas, sports, bad movies, good movies, general entertainment, kids’ programming, and so on.  This relatively large increase in variety also meant that providers could advertise to more tastes, including non-middle class tastes.  In addition, we went through a period of “authenticity über alles” where aspirations were “selling out” and you’re supposed to be keeping it real.  With these forces in place, a bifurcation could be expected.  Actually, what you get is more than bifurcation—you get segregation into much smaller, overlapping subsets.

That said, I also have a problem with the statement that “[w]hen working-class jobs paid as well as middle-class jobs, it wasn’t important.”  True working-class jobs—like plumbers, mechanics, and garbage men—still pay rather well.  In fact, many of them make more than I do.  There aren’t that many low-productivity, high-wage jobs (thanks to unions for bleeding those dry) outside of government work, but to say that these well-paying, blue-collar jobs simply don’t exist is wrong.

Normally, I agree with the Antiplanner.  But this post just struck me as wrong on too many levels.

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