Home | About | Donate

Class Politics Fit for the Times

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/05/13/class-politics-fit-times

1 Like

I wish he would define his terms. What does he mean by “rentier capitalism”, “precariat” and “salariat”?


When “labour” won’t see beyond its silo

1 Like

"rentier" capitalism
crony capitalism
corporate capitalism
monopoly capitalism
unregulated capitalism
state capitalism
private enterprise capitalism

The problem is CAPITALISM, not whatever superficial appearance it manifests itself in

“A senior Italian unionist said, “I think it is because we think that if the workers had income security they would not join unions.? There were nods of agreement. I retorted with my best smile that this was immoral and wrong” He was wrong and so is the author wrong.

It is opposed because it will lead to a drop in wage levels. The UBI is the basement level for minimum wages and that will be the target for every employer. It is a subsidy for employers not a gift for employees.

If you desire a better an understanding then read a long discussion with many links go to:


Yes, this guy Guy apparently did not scout this website to see what his proposed audience would be.

To begin with, he is British, and as some wag once said (supposedly George Bernard Shaw), “The English and the Americans are two peoples separated by a common language.”

Second, he is a dyed-in-the-wool leftist intellectual. As such, he has studied some classical-tradition economics and found it wanting (as have I), but with some “useful” jargon, such as “rentier capitalism.” If you’re not completely clear as to the nuances of “capitalism,” look it up, using at least three different sources. I summarize that term as bastard Latin for “Money Worship.”

“Rentier” comes from an obsolescent special use of the word “rent” in economics, where it refers to the difference between the total cost of producing something, including reasonable profit, and its actual selling price.

If all of the assumptions of classical-tradition economics were true, the selling price of everything would be driven down to the lowest possible cost of producing it by “perfect competition.” But competition is never perfect and classical-tradition economists have gotten away with a plethora of other assumptions that are absolutely ludicrous for nearly 300 years! Joseph Stiglitz won a Nobel prize for showing (a) that the parties to a deal are seldom privy to the same information (usually tilted steeply in favor of the seller), and (b, the tricky part) proving by common examples that the resultant uncertainty makes a difference in the price.

In other words, sellers almost always have the upper hand so can and do jack up the price until raising prices costs them more in loss of buyers than they gain from the higher prices, regardless of how little it cost them to produce.

Third, more jargon. Here we have to delve into a little economic history. In the late Middle Ages there were three economic classes: The feudal lords (who owned all the land or believed that they did), the peasants or serfs (who owned nothing because there was nothing much else to own), and a very small group of merchants who served mostly the lords, because the peasants had no means to pay for their services.

In the really late Middle Ages, formerly called “The Renaissance” (rebirth–in interest in the learning of the ancients), the merchant class expanded greatly for reasons we need not go into. They became known as the “bourgeoisie,” or city dwellers (note the resemblance to our word “Burg”). Soon the Industrial Revolution resulted in some of the bourgeoisie becoming factory owners, resulting in a new class of workers (or laborers, or “employees”), who like the peasants owned nothing. But instead of producing their own food like the peasants, they purchased food from the merchants with the money they earned, the merchants having purchased the food from the remaining lords or from the newly “liberated” farmers who for some reason could barely make ends meet.

That was the state of affairs beginning in the late 17th century, and remained so until the past few decades. Now pay attention:

As industry (that of the “revolution” of some 200-300 years prior) became more complex, the working class split into myriad trades and professions, requiring a wide range of skills from menial and rudimentary ones to highly esoteric ones such as brain surgery and rocket science. Not surprisingly, the people with the complex skills were relatively few in number and were able to demand much higher pay than the floor sweepers, who themselves were rapidly being displaced by machines.

As a result, members of the working class began to identify themselves more and more with the bourgeoisie, even though most of them were paid only a pittance compared to their bosses. (See where this is going?) These self-important workers, who were paid by the month rather than the hour to cement their allegiance to the bourgeoisie, have come to be called the “salariat.” In the meantime, as many industrial tasks were automated, the lower skilled workers fell farther and farther behind–on the rent, the medical bills, the car payments, etc.–to the point that many of them are just one paycheck away from living on the street if they’re not already there. This group has come to be called the “precariat” because their grip on life itself is so precarious.

Now, you probably knew all that except for the economic history. Especially the part about life being precarious. The third part of the article consists of a list of things the Precariat, formerly known as “the Working Class,” “must” do. Like most such gurus, Guy gives little help as to how those rosy goals are to be achieved. This is the reason this segment of the left is widely ridiculed. Their aim, supposedly, is to provide the explanation ("theory) of how the common people are to survive and thrive, how rentier capitalism is to be dismantled. But there is never any plan to set us on a path to doing it.

The good news, to the extent that there is any, is that human awareness and understanding is greater than it has ever been. There is a worldwide “movement of movements” working on every aspect of our current crises. Somewhere today I saw an article pointing out that while the thieves and vandals are working furiously to privatize everything we thought humankind held in common, there are many more people committed to re-establishing and expanding the the principle of the commons, the “general welfare” as envisioned in the Preamble to the US Constitution. I firmly believe that is the way forward, although it is becoming more and more likely that we will have to go through a collapse or bottleneck in which rentier capitalism dismantles itself, leaving us to pick up the pieces and create anew.

1 Like

No argument there. How we get beyond it remains to be seen.

Nice explanation, thanks.

loose translation:

rentier capitalism is late stage capitalism hallmarked by increasing obligation by workers and other to pay rents or everything. a “rentier” is a person who rents to someone (as opposed to the “renter”). What rentier capitalism does is increasingly removes the prospect of true ownership of productive property form ordinary people and concentrates it into the hands of a few. But the key is rent extraction. It’s basically a form of feudalism, which was the last purely rentier political economy.

the other two terms are more simple.

precariat are the people who are excluded from ownership, regardless of old class lines. They are one large rent away from insolvency. They can be middle class to working class.

Salariat he’s using the same way many of us would use the term, “professional class”, indicating the segment of managerial, salaried workers who can afford to own some amount of productive property, usually in the form, of real estate or small business properties.

Today we have two parties that are basically talking about institutionalizing a system that is blatantly, unescapable and unavoidably founded on disposable people, acknowledging their disposability and doing nothing about it.”