The parasitic classes triumphantly look down on the productive capitalists

Until Friday The Economist has an online debate going, ‘the global elite serves the masses’. I have had a little look around and the moderator’s remarks are quite a good, quick overview. Peter Saunders was the guest contributor and his comments have left me wanting to respond.

Not that there is much blame to be attached to the operations of global capitalism, which has done more for human freedom, dignity and comfort in the time since Marx was writing than any number of politicians or grandstanding celebrities with their megaphones and placards. […]

Global capitalism has made it possible for people to survive for longer than ever before. […] Global capitalism has also released much of humanity from the crushing burden of physical labour. […] Global capitalism has even helped undermine tyrannies and dictatorships.

Is it global capitalism itself that has had the agency to do these things?

So why are we even having this debate? The explanation is that the capitalist elite are being seriously challenged by the cultural elite (otherwise known as the “chattering classes”). […]

Despite their belief in their own moral superiority, the people who attack the wealth-generating capitalists are themselves part of a different, but equally privileged, elite. The source of their power is not money; it is their occupancy of key positions in the state, the educational system and the media. Eighty years ago, an Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, turned Marxist theory on its head by arguing that capitalism would be defeated, not by seizing control of the banks, offices and factories, but by dominating the culture, the production of ideas. He called on his followers to begin a “long march” through the cultural institutions of modern societies, and that is exactly what they have done. What we are witnessing today is the result: a struggle for power between two competing elites, one productive yet cowed, and the other parasitic yet triumphalist.

As a postgraduate student I am hardly a neutral observer, so it is probably rather predictable that I am puzzling over how it is that people in the educational system are not productive. Is it only those people who are marketing things for sale that are productive? Surely many of the successes that Saunders credits to global capitalism would not have been possible without political will, education, research and popular awareness?

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