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International Socialism, Spring 1967


Peter Ibbotson

And Misprints Too


From International Socialism (1st series), No.28, Spring 1967, p.32.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The New Classes
Robert Millar
Longmans, 30s

A liberal sprinkling of quotations and references indicates wide reading; a liberal helping of facile generalisation indicates a shortage of critical analysis. The new classes number four: Elite, Administrators, Technicists and Artisans; they hare emerged in response to admass stimuli in an affluent society whose gospel is market research – and Mark Abrams is its prophet. (On page 28 he is ‘the widely-respected market research expert;’ on page 39, ‘one of the most eminent and thoughtful spokesmen for the advertising industry.’) Despite these new names, the class structure remains essentially the same; unintentionally, I think, Millar has demonstrated Marx’s accuracy in prognosis. For if we accept Millar’s thesis that social divisions are less marked nowadays, that the social pyramid is becoming ever more egg-shaped, have we not arrived at fulfilment of ‘The former lower strata of the middle class ... sink slowly into the proletariat’ and the clear statement that ‘In countries where modern civilisation has become fully developed, a new class of petit bourgeoisie has been formed, fluctuating between proletariat and bourgeoisie, and ever renewing itself as a supplementary part of bourgeois society’? The rise of the Administrators and Technicists vindicates this prognosis, referred to also in Capital, where Marx foresees the emergence of a managerial and supervisory staffs and ‘the unproductive employment of a larger and larger part of the working class.’

Not that Millar has, in fact, much time for Marx. Indeed, he has written a book of nearly 300 pages without mentioning Marx or Marxism except once: ‘until recent years ... there may have been a Marxist-type class war simmering under the surface but ... it generated very little open bitterness and frustration.’ (He has also avoided any mention of Tawney; no mean feat considering the importance of education as a determinant of social class.)

On education he is, indeed, uncritically naive. The grammar schools have ceased to be middle-class institutions – the private sector of education has become multi-class – a new type of boy is going to the public schools – of the chairmen of the hundred biggest companies in Britain, ‘only’ 52 had been boarders at a public school (another 12 had been dayboys); this is intended to show that ability counts, not the old boy network. Equally naive is the substantiation offered of the claim that the monarchy and royal family have been democratised: they pay at parking meters and ‘some earn their own living’! At odds with reality is the assertion that Tories do not use high costs as an argument in favour of cutting the social services. Sir Cyril Burt is confused with Basil Bernstein. As for the slips which cannot all be passed over as misprints – who on earth are J.B. Priestly (p.236), P.G. Woodhouse (p.100), the artist Lowrie (p.199) and the ‘expert on education’ John Vaisey (p.110)? Books are mistitled; Veblen is credited with Theory of the Leisure Classes on one page, The Theory of the Leisure Class on another.

Not recommended.

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