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Issue No. 308 26 May 2006  
E D I T O R I A L

If the Answer is Nuclear ….
At least George Dubya still has some influence. Not in his own country, certainly not in Europe, not even in the former dominions of Latin America.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Out of the Bedroom
Reverend Jim Wallis is leading a crusade to take the moral debate into the public arena.

Industrial: Cloak and Dagger
The Howard Government has begun a series of workshops to sell its WorkChoice vsision. Sean Ambrose sneaked through the doors for Workers Online.

Unions: Lockout!
Jim Comerford’s eyewitness account of the 15-month Lockout of 10,000 New South Wales miners in1929-1930 records the inside story of Australia’s most bloody and bitter industrial conflict

Legal: The Fantasy of Choice
Professor Ron McCallum argues the WorkChoices laws are built on a fundamental fiction.

Politics: Labor Pains
Labor has dealt itself out of the crucial workplace relations debate by failing to articulate a credible policy alternative to Howard’s new WorkChoices legislation, argues Mark Heearn and Grant Michelson

Economics: Economics and the Public Purpose
Evan Jones pays tribute to John Kenneth Galbraith, a big man who never stopped arguing that economics should serve the public good, not create public squalor.

Corporate: House of Horrors
Anthony Keenan takes a tour of Sydney’s notorious, Asbestos House, courtesy of Gideon Haig.

History: Clash Of Cultures
Neale Towart with a new take on Mayday through the words of a punk icon

International: Childs Play
An ILO report into Child Labour shows some progress is being made to curb this gobal scurge .

Culture: Folk You Mate!
Phil Doyle dodges Morris Dancers to find signs of Working Life at the National Folk Festival in Canberra over the Easter Weekend.

Review: Last Holeproof Hero
Finally, a superhero who has worked out how to wear his underpants. Nathan Brown ogles V for Vendetta

N E W S

 Death Site Under Wraps

 Lets Get Physical, Building Bosses

 Retailers Spotlight Wage Cuts

 Sparkie Vote Will Go To the Wire

 More Front Than Meyer

 Nine Vanish in Melbourne Triangle

 Black is White, Andrews

 Kev Nicks from Kids

 Toothless Tiger Squeals

 High Standard Bugs Boss

 Labor Roots In Graft Allegations

 Security Posted

 ALP Urged to Front Up

 On the Road Again

 Activists What's On

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
Albo's Meltdown
Labor's environment spokesman Antony Albanese argues that Chrernobyl is one reason why the ALP should stand firm on nuclear.

The Locker Room
A Sort Of Homecoming
Phil Doyle plays to the whistle.

Parliament
The Westie Wing
Our favourite MP, Ian West reports from Macquarie Street on some strange collective acction.

L E T T E R S
 Spotlight on WorkChoices
 Noll On
 Riders on the Strom
 No Gerry Can
 Insight Fires Up
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Riders on the Strom


Thanks for dipping into the debate starting on Labor Tribune (http://www.labortribune.net) about the nature of class in modern society.

My main issue with commentators such as Richard Florida (Rise of the Creative Class) is that they barely rise above the level of sociology.

Left at this level, the various social aspects of class formation appear on the horizon as epistemological bumps or breaks with previous understandings of social class. There was Daniel Bell's "post-industrial society''; or Peter Drucker's "knowledge workers''; Pierre Bordieu's concept of "cultural capital''; "technocratic class''; "new class''; and so on.

And now Richard Florida and his "creative class".

I haven't read the book, just reviews of it. No doubt there are points of interest here about the nature of the modern global economy and the creative talent it seeks to engage in its relentless pursuit of profit, niche markets, individualised marketing, advertising and so on.

However, fans of such fly-by-night theories usually set up a straw figure of Marx and his analysis of class and the process of its formation. Garry, you seem to be from this stable too. You say: "Some intellectuals of the left haven't read anythying since Marx or Marcuse.'' I'd venture that some haven't read Marx at all.

Further you say: "Older ideas of class analysis are all well and good, but over time what constitutes the classes of society might well change.''

To me this says that your understanding of class doesn't extend much beyond the sociological.

A Marxian understanding of class is more dynamic and more profound than mere sociology. Capitalism changes, its productive forms change. I'm happy to accept the concepts of Fordism, post-Fordism and so on. And of course the nature of class formation reflects such shifts in the way capital reproduces itself. But such a process is contested. As Marx said, "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.'' For Marx, class struggle was the motor of history; and class struggle is contingent on human agency.

Marxism allows for such change in the nature of classes. Indeed, it is predicated on such a dynamic process. For Marx and the best of his epigones, class is not a category or a static structure, but a social relationship and a contested historical process.

E. P. Thompson, in his seminal Making of the English Working Class, gives a wonderful introduction to understanding class formation as a process that is contingent on broader social relations.

He says: "There is today an ever-present temptation to suppose that class is a thing. This was not Marx's meaning, in his own historical writing, yet the error vitiates much latter-day 'Marxist' writing. 'It', the working class, is assumed to have a real existence, which can be defined almost mathematically - so many men who stand in a certain relation to the means of production ... [But] if we remember that class is a relationship and not a thing, we can not think in this way. 'It' does not exist, either to have an ideal interest or consciousness, or to lie as a patient on the Adjustor's table.''

Such an approach neatly differentiates between a sociological understanding of class as opposed to a political or Marxist understanding. Class, therefore, is a process and a relationship. As the capitalist mode of production changes (and only a fool would argue that Marx thought it was a static system), the various sociological forms of class change.

The point, however, is to understand the essence of the system and the capital-labour relationship, not merely document its surface phenomona. What doesn't change is the fact that labour power is a commodity in capitalist society and that there is a (growing) class in world society that can only rely on the sale of this commodity for its daily existence: the working class. And it is ultimately in the interests and power of this class to rid itself of the mode of production that turns its daily life into a grind of alienated work.

I have no doubt that Florida, self-styled as "one of the world's leading social theorists and public intellectuals'', has some interesting observations to be made on creative workers in modern society. However, I suspect his 'theory' will go the way of other such book-selling gimmicks. And I suspect the working class and class struggle will outlast it, too.

Marcus Strom
Editor, Labor Tribune
[email protected]
www.labortribune.net


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