Part IV of Joel Kotkin’s The Coming of Neo Feudalism (2020) is “The Embattled Yeomanry”. Chapter 10 (The Rise and Decline of Upward Mobility) traces origins of the property-owning middle class to early Dutch culture with its roots in a strong work ethic and family values. The “Yeomanry”, as Kotkin calls us, is transitioning from a primary segment of western civilization to a shrinking, threatened minority. Chapter 11 (A Lost Generation) explains why children today, who are not lucky enough to have inherited our bourgeois values and wealth, are doomed to permanent serfdom. Chapter 12 (Culture and Capitalism) examines the critical importance of literacy and the nuclear family to success against threats from the other three classes (the Oligarchs, Clerisy and hordes of wretched, hopeless peasants being subjugated by the first two).
Kotkin is not just speculating about the doors to upward mobility being slammed shut for most. His endnotes are replete with evidence of growing; some would consider viciously mean, wealth consolidation. He cites a lot of the same books and articles I’ve pointed to for years, including Jeffrey A. Winters, Oligarchy (2011) my reading of which started this blog. Many writers seem to resent my clients’ fortunate position in the birth lottery that the hereditary aristocracy perpetuates. We are indeed situated in a hereditary aristocracy but with a copious portion of legitimizing meritocracy mixed in that morally justifies our moderate wealth. “Yeoman’s” work or share refers to good, hard, valuable effort. And that defines our class, not just the fortuity of being born to responsible parents.
Despite those that think we should feel guilty about our success:
or those that think we are downright evil dream hoarders:
We shall continue to thrive and heed Kotkin’s warnings that we’ll get to in a few weeks. The middle class is being eliminated, it no longer exists – just the four classes that Kotkin discusses (oligarchs, clerisy, yeomanry and serfs). Before our very eyes in real time there is an ongoing proletarianization* of the middle class. There soon will be no more middle class. If you think you’re middle class, you are not. You are either poor and uninformed or wealthy and insecure. I hope reading this blog makes you secure and informed.
* proletarianization is a Marxist concept whereby people transition from being employers or self-employed, to being wage slaves – living paycheck to paycheck, as part of what we’ll see next week, denizens of the propertyless “precariat” dwelling at the bottom of a feudal society.