There’s a lot of people that won’t admit it; there’s a lot of people who aren’t comfortable with the idea; there’s a lot of people who don’t think they truly belong, there’s a lot of people who even refuse to accept the social distinction.
I’m referring to the existence of the middle classes.
Class – it can be divisive and emotive.
“I still go to work so I’m working class.”
“I don’t own my own house so I’m certainly not middle class.”
“My parents were working class and I’m still working class.”
Actually, more of us are middle class than we generally realise or accept. It’s a good job we are.
The middle classes are invaluable to society; to its survival, its strength and its development. In fact, modern society can only exist and function as it does because of the middle classes.
This is because all societies need an underlying, galvanising force; something that it can rely on, something that drives it, something that can hold it together. Without such a force it would have no focus or foundation. It would become weak and unstable.
Throughout history that force has always existed. It might have been through an elite – the extensive reach of the church or the power of the monarchy – or it might have been through some mass body or movement such as the military or agricultural labour or the working classes of the industrial age.
This modern era has seen the rise of the middle classes.
In the 1800’s, society survived and functioned because it lived off the working classes – an army of hard-working labourers who provided the graft for society to operate. That working class army of compliant, exploited, down-trodden supplicants enabled the elite to prosper and indulge. It was undoubtedly a time when society could be divided between the haves and the have-nots.
During this time, the professional middle classes emerged as a group in society that served their wealthy clients but, in so doing, attained the means to themselves prosper. As such, they began to identify and acquire some of the finer things in life.
That middle class banding expanded. Initially it belonged to professional society – solicitors, bankers, accountants – but over time, more people and more types of people were drawn into it.
The enlarged middle classes boomed to such an extent that they now represent a significant majority of the population. They have become the force that enables society to function and develop, the body that brings stability. In fact, such is their prevalence that modern society has become totally dependent on them.
As an industrial or manufacturing economy we are very much diminished. Instead, we have become largely a services economy. And that’s where the middle classes have flourished. We are prepared to pay for others to do jobs that we can’t do or don’t want to do – a window cleaner, a repair man, a decorator, a financial adviser.
This middle class spending not only drives the economy but it also fosters our buy-in and allegiance to society as it seemingly satisfies our needs and desires, as well as encouraging a community network.
The middle classes are good for society and, what’s more, society loves the middle classes. By and large, we dutifully pay our taxes, we commit no crime and we involve ourselves in the local community. We are good citizens.
Our reward is a comfortable existence, one that is generally free from hardship and toil.
Some will still challenge their inclusion within this social block:
“I don’t feel a part of that.”
“I don’t have the money to spend on luxuries.”
“There are people who are more middle class than me.”
To be middle class is not to be defined by the type of car we drive or by the supermarket we shop at, not even, necessarily, by the job that we do, but it’s a state of mind generated by a certain identification, behaviour or position in society.
That state of mind is based on…. well, perhaps the best way to describe it is as niceness. Niceness is what we’re about. We like nice things, we like people to be nice, we like things to be done nicely. The middle classes are just nice people.
And, significantly, whether it is because we have the time, the liberty or the resources, we are able to live that niceness. And that makes it a “nice” society to belong to – especially if you’re part of the middle classes.
But don’t be misled. Niceness can all too easily be misconstrued as easy-going and accepting. It would be dangerous to think like that. The middle classes should not be taken for granted. We may be a silent majority but, given our significance, we are a force that should not be trifled with. Although it may appear that we just get on with our lives, if that lifestyle was threatened – the breakdown of law and order, unjust taxation, the loss of self-determination -we could be stirred into disapproval, protest and even unrest.
Being middle class is something to be neither afraid of nor embarrassed by. In fact, it’s something we should be proud of. Not only have we given society great strength and solidity but we have also created a nice society for ourselves, a society based on all things nice.