There is absolutely no way there’d be a revolution in America. I say this because people are delusional about the prospects of people like Bernie Sanders. I like Sanders, but there’s no way his vision will be realized in the current state of American socioeconomic organization. Let me elaborate on this a little.
In the past, revolutions were pretty common for various reasons but chief among them being that society was organized along lines best popularized by Karl Marx. I’m talking primarily about European societies here. In the past socioeconomic paradigm, there were two classes: the haves, and the have-nots OR owners, and workers OR bourgeoisie, and proletariat.
In this old paradigm, you knew who was what, and the class distinctions were pretty acutely demarcated. So if you lived in Europe in 1870, you were either a king, an aristocrat or commoner, you either owned land or you tilled someone’s land; you either owned the shop or you worked for the owner of the shop; you either owned the factory or you were a factory hand; you either owned the slave or merchant ship or you were a deck hand. In terms of money and power, the worker had almost zero, the owner had almost 100%. In that clear-cut social and economic organization of communities, pent up anger could easily ignite violent political revolution. If Sanders lived in 1870 Europe, he probably would have instigated a violent revolution already. But he’s not. He’s living in a radically altered world. And the most important class in society is what I call ‘the management class.‘
The most ingenious innovation of 20th and 21st century capitalism is the invention of the management class. Some of you might ask who this management class is. To those people, listen carefully. Today, as a result of massive growth of large multinational companies and consolidation of capital in the hands of a handful of families, there has arisen a need for a sizable number of managers and middlemen to manage the affairs of these countries on behalf of these mega rich families. This has resulted in the creation of what I call the most important economic class in contemporary society. So, these upper and middle managers are the class to whom every government policy is built to help and they drive social and economic policy. Examples of these managers include people like Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Google Chief Financial Officer Ruth M. Porat, Google Europe Spokesperson Matt Britain, CITI Group Head of Operations Don Callahan, Princeton University Executive Vice President Treby Williams etc etc.
The owners of the companies these upper and middle managers work for are worth tens if not close to hundreds of billions of dollars. But there are only a handful of them. And these management guys are in the hundreds and thousands for the small, medium, and massive multinational companies around the world. They often make somewhere between $300k to $500 million dollars. When you look at the reality of their pay, it is nothing compared to the billions the handful of families make annually in profits from these companies. But, the amounts these management class make is enough to be used as what I call “candy” to attract the rest of the population and workers; the traditional have-nots.
In the past, we had the haves and the have-nots. But today, we have the multi-billionaires, their millionaire management class, and the have-nots. And the management class act as a buffer for these multi-billionaire families against the marauding masses for multiple reasons.
First among these reasons is that they are the candy that the system cleverly dangles in the face of everyone else and give them the illusion that they can also make it. In a typical organization like Google or CITI Group, you have about 50-500 middle to top management who make salaries above $300k to somewhere around $500 million. You then have another ten thousand to a million-people working for the organization earning barely living wage wages something around $20k to $90k. But all these thousands of people working for CITI Group actually don’t identify themselves as belonging to their own class. They usually see themselves among the class above themselves: the management class. They see where they are as temporary station in their lives even though 90+% of them will retire or get fired in that category they work in. But the urge is so strong that they are unwilling to disturb their already narrow and precarious chances of squeezing through to this management position. These people are therefore highly risk averse. They are often supporting a spouse and a child or two and so are looking at that next car or that potential for a summer home. They are therefore highly risk averse. And the overwhelming reason for this is the candy above them. They want so much to believe they can get there if they are good and act proper and work hard. But as the reality has shown, most will never get there. And for that reason, today’s working class cannot be depended on as fuel for a revolution. They are psychologically not working class.
The other main reason the management class act as a buffer for the multi-billionaire class is that they share similar background with the poor and working class. In the past, the aristocracy, the landed gentry, and the merchant class were very much a separate world to themselves. They married their kids to each other, sent their kids to exclusive aristocrat schools, and generally shunned the company of the working class. For all intents and purposes, the classes lived a world apart from each other. Today, this management class who often come from the working class actually get in the circles of the mega-billionaire class. They therefore act as literal human bridge between the classes. And because they share a background with the working class, there is a kind of solidarity the management class has from the working class which hinders revolutionary fervor as well. It is much more difficult to put in a guillotine your classmate or playground playmate. The appetite to put Marie Antoinette on the guillotine was partly motivated by the alienation regular French society had as regards her and her type. Today, it is not as clear-cut.
In terms of their naked political impact these management class has on society, they are the drivers of political change or stagnation in the world. In a world where bribery is legalized and called lobbying, the individual, and company bribing power this class holds makes them the most powerful class in the political system. With private and corporate financing of elections, they can contribute obscene amounts of money to politicians and therefore sway elections whatever way they so choose. When they band together, they often are able to create very rich Political Action Committees (PACs): the most important political tool in the US, to support politicians who will do their bidding. And in the past few elections have been driving up the cost per election to above billion dollars. A recent Princeton study found that the management class are the only ones whose needs the political system responds to almost 100 percent of the time. And of course, their needs are in line with that of their bosses. So, it was this class which banded together to railroad the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016, a campaign with very tepid recommendations to make life barely bearable for the working class.
At the moment, 51% of Americans make less than $30k a month in a country where you have to be earning $46k to be considered in the middle class. Sanders’ much touted $15 an hour minimum wage is mere pittance when looked at in relation to the needs of the average American. Fifteen dollars an hour when all is said and done does very little for the average working class worker. It makes their lives a little less terrible but still terrible nonetheless. When I calculated a full 40 hours working week at the $15 per hour, I realized that Sanders is fighting for someone to be at the top of the poor in America. If all wage earners at the bottom were instantly paid fifteen dollars an hour today, they’d all still be poor because the maximum they can make before taxes will be $31k, a full $15k below the middle-class income level. So, Sanders, even though radical in the current gilded age politics of America, is still a woefully inadequate candidate to excite a revolution. Pegged to inflation, minimum wage in America should be close to $30 today.
There is only one hope for a revolution in America and that is the continued growth of inequality. This might sound cynical but I see no other way. There are too many distractions and political brinkmanship and people lying to themselves for any real revolution to happen today no matter how progressive a candidate is in a national election in America. The only way things will change is if they get to truly truly unlivable conditions where people can no longer hide behind the possibility of upward mobility or the bonds that hold them and the management class together to not want change. It will only happen when people’s backs are truly pushed to the wall. But it cannot happen with figureheads like Bernie Sanders or any single regional movement. It has to be spontaneous nationwide uproar. I believe the robot revolution and the automation of jobs will accelerate that possibility. It might not happen in the next decade or two but it can happen, unless capitalism invents another buffer. The management class buffer appears to be getting stretched to its limit with upward mobility trends slowing down or being reversed in certain areas of life. Maybe when 80% of the population can’t afford a $1k emergency, there will be a revolution.