Monday, April 5, 2010

When Empire Hits Home II: The Impoverishment of the Middle Class

Andrew Gavin Marshall, Center for Research on Globalization
(This is Part 2 of the series, "When Empire Hits Home." Part 1: War, Racism and the Empire of Poverty)
The western nations of the world have built their great wealth and societies on the exploitation and plundering of the people and resources of the rest of the world. The wealth, freedom, and structures of our societies have been built on the starvation, robbery, deprivation and murder of millions upon millions of the world’s people, both historically and presently.
It seemed for a time that “Western Civilization” had worked, even if only for the west. We saw the emergence and growth of a vibrant middle class, which has its origins in the Industrial Revolution, out of which we also saw the formation of the “nuclear family.” The middle classes of the west grew in wealth, education, and access. While the great problems of the world, and for the majority of the world’s people, persisted and expanded exponentially, the great purpose of the middle class was siphoned and expanded into facilitating the development of a massive consumerist society. The function of the middle class became that of consuming, not necessarily contributing to determining the direction of society.
Nevertheless, life was good; or so it seemed. Thus, the people were by and large able to turn a blind eye to the plight of the world’s majority. As the decades progressed, however, the great western empires, increasingly united under the umbrella of a US-led NATO empire, grossly expanded their plundering and exploitation of the rest of the world. New avenues for capitalist expansion needed to be found, more money to be made, more assets to be owned, more power to be had. As a part of this process, class structure was being reorganized, which meant that the middle class was to undergo an evolution.
In the past few decades, the middle class has been forced to survive on debt. In order to maintain the image of middle class, and to maintain the functions of the middle class (i.e., to consume), the middle class needed access to credit and had to descend into a class of debt. Now, as the world is undergoing a rapid social, political, and economic transformation, the middle class has been marked for death. As a debt crisis takes the nations of the world into debt servitude, the middle classes of the western world will lose their access to credit, and will be forced into repaying their debts. As nations fall under a debt crisis, the middle class will collapse with it. A class built and sustained on debt is not sustainable. We are entering into a period of rapid class transformation on a global scale.
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