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Class Justification, Then and Now

Class Systems.

We have never had a classless society, at least since antiquity. Communism was supposed to evolve into such a thing, but never made it. There have been various attempts to establish small communes founded on equality, but their dependence on the outer world generally did them in. So the prospects for creating one do not look particularly promising.

But we can expose the lies on which inequity and exploitation are founded. That way we may be able to change the system to one that is more just and perhaps somewhat closer to being equitable.

Economics and Class. There are many ways in which class systems are maintained, not all of which are directly relevant to economics, but economics is at heart all class systems. That is because economics is about the ways in which human needs and desires are met, and class systems are about who does the labor required to meet them and who gets what share of the product of that labor.

As pointed out in the Short Version, meeting human needs and desires requires both labor and resources. For reasons that we will discuss later, resources tend to accumulate into the hands of the few unless steps are taken to prevent it. And if you control the resources, you can force others to do your share of the world's labor. Thus the world becomes divided into the Elves, who do the work, and the Trolls, who demand tolls for access to the resources that they control.

Just-So Stories. The Trolls then devise Just-So stories to explain why it is that they are privileged and others are forced to serve them.

Perhaps the major distinction of the present collection of Just-So Stories results from the fact that current class distinction is, at least in theory, dynamic rather than static. Collectively these modern stories are usually called neo-liberal economics, or sometimes just economics, since the neo-liberals generally assume that all the others are quacks. And of course they pretend to be scientists. Sometimes they even act a bit like scientists. But there are other economists who actually take this science business very seriously. They pay attention to evidence. We will pay attention to them, although the neo-liberals and most of the media generally do not.

But let us first look at class justification in the past.

The Chain of Being. I said that previous theories of class justification were static. One did not move from one class to another—at least in theory. One was born what one was. Of course there were lots of explanations as to why women, servants and others were inferior and meant by nature to serve, but there was one grand, over-arching theory that subsumed them all. It was called the Great Chain of Being.

[Next: From The Chain of Being to Charles Darwin]

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