We’re Classless When We’re Dead, Research Time, 27/08/2013

I read some very interesting chapters in Maier-Katkin’s Hannah Arendt biography yesterday afternoon about her coverage of the Adolf Eichmann trial and the composition of Eichmann in Jerusalem. But I think I want to hold off my detailed thoughts on this period of Arendt’s writing until I dive more into the books on totalitarianism myself. I will say this, though: Arendt will probably be a central source of concepts for the utopias project.

I’ve also had the opportunity to get back into the Critique of Dialectical Reason after a few busy days. One of the inevitable discussions of any piece of writing that operates in a Marxist tradition is class, particularly the term ‘bourgeoisie.’ Even when I’ve studied Marx’s work itself, this term has always proven very difficult for me. I just never really had a referent for the set of behaviours it discussed. It was really only on reading 19th century literature from England and France (particularly Dickens and Stendhal) that I really understood the type of person this referred to. They were the new wealthy moneyed elite, usually quite stuck up about it.

This is the first image to appear on the
Wikipedia page for 'bourgeoisie.' I will
never understand the fashion industry.
One of the fates that almost every work of human knowledge faces is that one day the world will make it obsolete. And this might be happening with the Marxist concept of the bourgeoisie. Now, I’m not nearly well-versed enough in the subtleties of the enormous corpus of Marxist philosophical and political literature out there to say this definitively. But I at least want to hazard a guess about this particular concept’s dance with obsolescence: I don’t think the bourgeoisie exists anymore.

At least not in the style that it did in the 19th century. Sartre makes an interesting point about this. Environmental damage and pollution affects all socio-economic classes pretty much equally. No matter how rich you are, we all breathe the same smog. Maybe the very rich can get away to tropical island vacations, but even there, an oil slick from a wrecked ship may not be far behind. Beyond this point, the well-being, or at least the social stability, of all classes depends on the health of the industries in which they work. And if ecological destruction affects an industry as a whole, then everyone is up the same creek.

Even so, if global climate change causes the average temperature of Earth to hover around 35ºC or higher, and humidity to hit 100% saturation regularly, it doesn’t matter what class you are. Under those circumstances, the human body is unable to dissipate heat, its electrical system will overload and break down. At that point, the human race will be dead. And socio-economic class distinctions will not be quite so relevant.

No comments:

Post a Comment