THE BLOG
04/11/2013 07:40 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

The Esoteric Nature of the Subtexts of Class in Society

When autumn announces itself in the lowlands; trees swing at three sixty and shed every evidence of the yester springs and summers from their shoots. Not less cruel is the force of these autumn storms when they try their best to unleash decay of thoughts long entertained by my mind. The latest storm of introspection that coincided with its aforementioned objective correlative this autumn, shed an old crop of thinking that I had nurtured in my mind for quite some time and that was of homogeneity and just access to uniform economic opportunities for everyone in the global human society at large. The damage to my overly simplistic and naive thinking was colossal when I reassessed myself within the ambit of the complex structure of the global human society, the realm of knowledge and the class hierarchies it breeds and the global economic system in the backdrop of vast clouds of discontent in the world. Now I tend to think that since the early phases of the development of human civilization from hunter gatherer societies, tribal societies, agrarian living to the modern day post-industrial, technology driven, sophisticated and complicated lives of the city dwellers, the impulse to dominate and surpass their respective compatriots has been a consistent feature of the historical and the present societies. Hence, power and hierarchies of various social classes are not only structurally maintained from above and within to organize societies internally, they are also reinforced through various institutions like family, schools, ecclesia, universities and various other organs of the state and the bodies of non-state entities.

The so called social class pyramid situates every individual in specific class groups which exist between two extremes: the upper class and the lower class. The majority population of all nation states in the world belongs to the middle class which is always in a state of competitive struggle to climb to the upper class and avoid slipping down to the lower class status where poverty and organized crime harbour if these people don't contemplate and materialize revolutionary struggle against the ruling classes. The middle class has its own three sub categories which are (i) highly educated and professionally skilled upper middle class people (ii) the semi-educated and semi-professional class of lower middle class people and (iii) the working class of blue collared individuals who live on subsistence income and who live in a state of endemic risk of sliding down to the status of lower class peasantry. Due to the subjective nature of this analysis I won't resist to use this class lens to have a heuristic overview of where a middle class university student like me should find himself on this ladder of power and status in society. In other words, I argue that universities as institutions perpetuate their own capitalist interests while simultaneously producing an intellectual elite class of graduates who ultimately become a work force of specialists in the market to occupy upper middle class status to either aggrandize their private interests or serve the state as government servants to sustain hegemony of the state over the masses and maintain this class structure as it is. University thus is a conservative institution that rather than eliminating class distinctions, either reinforces them or at least maintains their status quo. In the modern post industrial contexts, state and private universities have become corporate enterprises where trade of knowledge takes place like elsewhere in other businesses and money is the currency used to buy it. Fellowships and funding for research and development is provided by the state or private foundations for the purpose of dissemination of specific kind of knowledge. Specific narratives which fulfill specific interests of various edifices of power in society are given patronage and financial support now a days.

The system says it aloud that higher education is a luxury and a lottery ticket to the higher middle class and the upper class status in society and those who no longer want to remain the untouchables of this hierarchical set up, must prostitute their bodies and skills to earn money by any means possible to pay for the knowledge at its factories. The competitive market is ever ready to do transaction of labour with money at its own terms when part-time workers prostate at their threshold for work. The science graduates and specialists work for the industrial bourgeoisie and philosophers, social scientists and liberal artists enter academia or state and private think tanks to work as an intellectual elite class. Any gesture of social activism and advocacy by the intellectual elite class in society in which they attempt to arouse revolutionary spirits of the disadvantaged classes of the society is itself fraught with grand contradictions because these elites too belong to the legion of the exploiters in society. The lower middle class and the lower class individuals, due to their limited resources are mercilessly ignored and alienated and left to stay where they are in this stratification. Low paid menial jobs and unemployment wrap up their dream world. The relation between the state and the intellectual elite class is well elaborated by Italian scholar Antonio Gramsci when he distinguishes the state and civil society as distinct entities. He draws three fundamental conclusions which are described by historian Eqbal Ahmad: "(i) when civil society (which includes professional, literary and artistic institutions and associations) conforms uncritically or is coerced by the state into silence, totalitarianism prevails. (ii) when civil society enjoys a lively network of institutions and associations, and these maintain critical links with state institutions, then democracy prevails. (iii) When state and society are structurally and culturally antagonistic to each other, then conditions of civil war and anarchy obtain, and a society evades either fate only when its intelligentsia forges and popularizes a programme for reform or revolution." (Eqbal Ahmad, "Intellectuals' Role in Society" Dawn 10 December 1995.)

In either of these situations the choices of the intellectual elite class of a society define the destiny of a society. According to the Jeffersonian perspective, the state should invest in the poor and the rich to select an elite class of talented people to rule a democratic society. A well ordered republic aims to attain share of power between the aristocratic wealthy class of natural elites and an intellectual elite class of skilled specialists which possesses talent and virtue. And both these classes must be accountable to an elaborate constitution. It will still remain an unresolved puzzle in the end knowing how successful these measures by the state (which itself is deemed a hegemonic entity) really are to address the discontents of the under-privileged masses. These social discontents are the very essence of this class stratification in society which has a fundamentally debilitating influence upon free expression of talents nature has bestowed upon all. It is tough to imagine if an alternative social arrangement without the hegemonic powers of the state and the class structure it maintains will displace the multiple nodes of power which have an omniscient stronghold upon society to set individuals free to realize their legitimate desires like pursuit of knowledge.