Marx on the middle

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “So, you think you’re middle class …” (yesterday). Sorry to be pedantic, but does Mel Campbell have a source for her claim that, “From a Marxist perspective, the middle class is the salaried socioeonomic group that supervises the waged working class on behalf of the ruling class. They manage wealth and resources, but don’t own them.”?

This is certainly not the point of view put forward by Karl Marx in Capital, volume 3, chapter 52. In the Communist Manifesto, he actually used the term “middle class” for the emerging capitalist class. In any case, this definition would exclude doctors and lawyers who run their own practice, and a lot of public servants, professionals, small business people, etc. Rather than clarifying the issue, this definition relies largely on an outdated and meaningless distinction between wages and salaries.

So many people claim to be middle class because it is impossible to define. There is no “class”, there is just a heterogenuous collection of middle-income, middle-status people who cannot be easily classified in the working class or the capitalist class. And the outer limits of the “middle” are also impossible to define.

Remembering Faulkner

Jemal Airey writes: Re. “Faulkner’s retirement a loss across many fronts” (yesterday). Your article on John Faulkner’s retirement reminded me of a Senate estimates hearing about 10 years ago (when, incidentally, the public service had been instructed by PM&C to be as unhelpful and obstructive as possible). My boss (a senior public servant) was walking out of the Parliament House committee room during a coffee break. Thinking a colleague was immediately behind him, he muttered: “I fucking hate this fucking shit.”

“Yeah, me too,” came the response. He turned to see that John Faulkner had followed him out.

No matter how exhaustive his interrogations, the public service revered Faulkner. It was nice to hear that it wasn’t personal on his side either.

What about the doctors’ wives?

Peter Wotton writes: Re. “Abbott dumps co-payment — onto GPs” (yesterday). While the main demographic affected by the co-payment is low-income earners, who do not vote Liberal, the doctors and, possibly more importantly, the demographic of the “doctors” wives” do vote Liberal and may well be disgusted at this further slippery action by Abbott!


Crikey writes: Re. “Too left-wing for News Corp? Business Spectator bids farewell to Rob Burgess” (yesterday). In yesterday’s article we mistakenly said Rob Burgess was Business Spectator‘s second-most-read columnist. Australian CEO Nicholas Gray informs Crikey this is not accurate:

Business Spectator’s three most-read columnists are, in no particular order, Alan Kohler, Robert Gottliebsen and Stephen Bartholomeusz.  All three frequently appear in The Australian Business Review, part of The Australian, which has a monthly readership across print and digital of 3.2m, as well as in Business Spectator.

The article has been amended.

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