Our Presidential Roundtable, Pod Save the People

Barbara Ehrenreich on UBI, class conflict, and collective joy, Ezra Klein Show:
I don’t know if there has ever been such a self-centered culture as as emerged in the United States in the 20th century….looking out for yourself…. We are very unusual, compared to prehistoric societies for sure, and even compared to ones that are quite recent in the last few hundred years……  I don’t think we started that way…. This comes from a little intellectual excursion into the Paleolithic Era, the Stone Age, when there were modern humans….. We do our best to try to figure things out for ourselves, which is a good thing, but we also don’t have a clear sense of what is a job for all of us, or groups of us, and what is a job for just an individual. I think we’d get a lot more done if we chose to work together…. The professional middle-class only existed as a class in the late 19th century. And it’s a class that defied the Marxist notion that there were just two main classes in society…. That’s the way things were thought of until some time in the early 20th century when the professions as we know them took form…. They organized themselves…., and very important to that was distinguishing themselves from workers. The managerial class had the ambition to rise higher in the class structure, even if it did not mean becoming part of the bourgeoisie if it meant earning more, having more authority over other people…. We expect to be listened to in our professional middle-class lives, whereas if you are a person who cleans the office that night you don’t expect to have any effect on the people you’re working for or the enterprise you’re supposedly a part of. We have this idea built into us as professional middle-class people that we are worth more, that our views are worth more, than those of other people who drive trucks and clean bedpans and do so many of the obviously necessary jobs in our society…. Is what we do really more worthy [worth more compensation] than what a nurse’s aide does? I don’t think so. I think we need a little more humility here…. [Being a professional involves] seeing yourself as better than other people, which I don’t think is helpful in any way.



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