By almost any measure, I’m painfully middle class. I don’t just mean in terms of economic or social facts (occupation, family, manners, education, etc.) but also, and more interestingly, in terms of temperament: the way I approach things, including political issues, is marked by a mentality that I think has a certain association with ‘the middle classes’ – in particular by being, as I will discuss, non-judgmental, individualistic, and ‘xenophilic’.
Now, the relationship between the middle classes and the left is one that’s often brought up, but regarding which sober analysis is often obscured by a dialogue of accusation and defense – both outside the left, which is castigated as a whole for being supposedly full of ‘idealistic’ and ‘naïve’ middle-class intellectuals and ‘champagne socialists’, and within the left, where one group denounces another for its ‘middle-class’ orientation/membership/methodology (also sometimes called ‘petit-bourgeois’) and counter-poses the genuine working class nature that the left is supposed to have. What exactly is involved in middle-classness politically is sometimes unclear.
This is not a post about my guilt, privilege, or anything like that. What I’m going to try to do is cash out more precisely the respects in which I recognise myself as conforming to a certain ‘type’ of the middle-class lefty, and what implications this has.
This ‘type’ is of course one which is neither shared by all of the middle classes, all of the left, or all of the middle-class left, nor exclusive to them. There may well be other middle-class ‘types’, including some quite opposed to this one, but it seemed an interesting and worthwhile topic to consider nonetheless.
Note also, these are not positions or beliefs, but features of temperament – which will be one influence among others in deciding between positions.