Now that I have been evolving my theory for almost three years now, I need to get a tighter handle on it so that it remains reasonable when bumping up against the reality of other folks' ideas that are more popular and possibly more robust than mine. So let me take a moment to describe the differences in perceptions of class.
What we have in America is a great deal of social mobility within the broad middle class. We understand that it makes sense to talk about upper middle class and lower middle class. We can do so in the context of an ordinary neighborhood. The middle class guy has a house and he works as a middling white collar functionary. (I'm thinking of the comedic film 'Identity Theft'). He makes about 50K per year, is married and has two kids. The upper middle class are the guys he goes to for his survival, the doctor, the dentist. The lower middle class are the guys that go to him, the gardener, the crossing guard. We respect him more or less based upon his accent, his style of dress, his tastes. Does he watch monster trucks or does he read Jane Austen? All of these are social class and they matter. Social class is all about the Maitre D's nose, and a proper Maitre D, does not err. America is still a place where my Peasants can get cleaned up and get a table at That Restaurant. We are still and open and free *society*. Our social classes are rich and diverse, and ultimately according to my theory, useless. Remember my theory kicks in when democracy ends and feudalism begins, in the Zombie Apocalypse, but it's useful now, when society is undergoing change because of Economic and Functional changes.
In the US, social class is where we live comfortably. We talk about gender, region, religion, race, preference, politics and all sorts of marketing demographics and psyhhological profiles all the time. These are ever-shifting seas we navigate in our complex society. A lot of people spend a lot of time bloviating over social class, which they should. Let's just assume about 2000 varieties that maybe would could get down to 50 if we tried.
Economic class is easy to understand. Are you Wealthy, Rich, Affluent, Comfortable, Stuggling, Failing or Indigent? I like this seven way description because it maps to a middle of comfort which is the middle of the middle class. The upper middle class is affluent, the lower middle class is struggling. The poor are Failing and the Indigent have failed completely. Let's flesh this out a bit in terms of work. The Wealthy and the Rich do not have to work, although the Rich generally do. The Affluent, Comfortable and Struggling have regular more or less reliable work. They can be expected to keep their same position for a couple or three years. The Failing do not have permanent work. They must hustle and their hustle is not generally profitable. The Indigent simply do not work and nobody expects them to. So this also splits into three traditional classes, Upper, Middle and Lower, and I think this is how most people think of class. By no means are these distributions even or static. My wild guess at America says the houshold distribution top to bottom is something like 2, 10, 15, 23, 23, 15, 12. That's 75% middle class and 12% below the poverty line. I don't think it skews quite so low, but I'll correct that over time. These economic strata are certainly less fluid than social class. Actually I shouldn't say strata because that implies layer in rock that only change over millions of years. America certainly has economic mobility.
I would challenge anyone who bleats about 'income inequality' to show me the tipping point of revolution. I think they cannot, but surely someone has some idea. Nor does it much matter how much more wealthy the wealthy are than the rich. In many ways these economic numbers are irrelevant to the fate of the nation. Why? Because character counts, and that is expressed another way than through money.
The essense of my Peasant Theory has everything to do with this way of looking at class. I call it functional because it determines / describes how people organizationally function in society superceding all other class categorizations. I beleive, or at least the point of my theory is to show that this works at a micro and at a macro level - that functionally people are The Rulers, The Slice & The Peasants.
What's most important about the Rulers is that they are those in a society that give out honor. Building from the ancient wisdom that men are motivated by fear, greed and honor, rulers are made from those who can dish out punishment, money and awards. When you think about it conversely, these are the things that the powerless are incapable of giving away. In our society, I think the honor is the most important thing that identifies the ruling class, but that is not easily apparent. Everybody conveniently understands that the Ruling Class are 'The One Percent', although I would argue that there are probably about 50,000 people who rule over America and that's less than one percent. They are all kings and you talk back to them at your peril.
The Slice is the only real functional middle class and here in America they are about 8% of society. These are the people who actually run the machinery of civilization. They are the irreplacable technocracy. They work directly for, and enable the Ruling Class. Everybody else is a Peasant. If you have to ask what you are, you're a Peasant. You can be rich, and very talented and still be a Peasant.
Now there is what I call an Alternative Slice and an Anti-Slice. They are still within that 8 or 9 percent. They all compete for the positions of being the Pro-Slice, those who hold the keys. The Alternatives want to be the Pro-Slice and take over the positions of the staus quo. The Anti-Slice wants to take over and go a different direction. I think the health of the nation is found in the character of the Slice, becuase ultimatly the reasons (moral, amoral, immoral) that they follow the orders of the Ruling class determines what works and why. Nazi Germany, for example, became what it did because of the moral cowardice of the Pro-Slice and the failure of the Anti-Slice. So let me also suggest that Slice diversity is essential and that the enforced conformity of The Slice is a dangerous thing.
The Peasants are everybody else, and I haven't meditated on the Peasantry for long. The reason is that functionally, the Peasantry is so diverse. What matters from the perspective of what originally motivated me to create this theory is that the Peasantry is that large segment of the population that democracy may fail. Which is to say I came into these ideas when I continued to hear ordinary people lose faith in American institutions. They were shocked to realize that the American middle class might not be well-served and what they have been promised and taken on faith may not be delivered. This generated the question of why they were so needy and not actually self-sufficient in the first place.
While I hold to some 'Mark Twainian' level of cocksure mockery and some equal measure of disgust and condescention of the American Peasantry and its digustingly vulgar culture & al, I do hold in esteem the common man. The aim of democracy and free education in this country should be that of self-rule. But those who fail to learn, whether or not the education is freely given, have failed themselves and they have failed democracy. They are improper citizens, they sell their birthright as Americans and as such are fools, who are, not coincidently taken advantage of by political charlatans. But this has been the condition of people throughout history. And what happens when the disciplined constrution and maintenance of democratic institutions fail? People revert to fuedal arrangements. IE the social classes break down. The economic classes break down, and all you're left with are the functional classes.
For the time being, we have a strong society and a strong economy, but those can be worn down to the functional skeleton.