Plumb Lines

March 26, 2009

The Stability of the Middle Classes

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Schaengold @ 10:47 am

There is much to say about Keith’s thorough post on John Lukacs, especially about his understanding of knowledge as ‘participant,’ but I’ll start by quibbling with a single line. Keith writes, summarizing Lukacs:

Bourgeois social and political order created stability, decency, and discipline, but allowed creativity.

There is a whole class of defenses of bourgeois order than runs along similar lines. And yet what precisely is this ‘stability’ that the bourgeoisie stands for? Perhaps for the rapid and permanent destruction of local custom? Simone Weil notes the casual death of “customs which maybe went back for several thousand years, the very memory of which would have been entirely lost had it not been for the hasty notes that [George Sand] took down concerning them.”

There is a distinction between experienced instability and actual instability, and another distinction between personal instability and structural instability. The bourgeois order doesn’t care much about experienced and personal instability, but it systematically minimizes actual and structural instability. People worry when they personally experience instability, which they do when they see their most basic cultural suppositions (that marriage is the union of complementary sexes, say) undermined and destroyed over the course of a decade, or even more quickly. Fortunately, defenders of the bourgeois order can rush to their rescue by posing as agents of reaction, promising to deliver them from the vertigo of personal instability by delivering our society more wholly up to the mercilessly stable, mercilessly disciplined economic system that created their personal instability in the first place.

-David Schaengold


1 Comment »

  1. […] of the Middle Classes Filed under: Uncategorized — Keith Staples @ 11:55 am David says that Lukacs (for whom I’ve gained a lot of respect and affection) gives the bourgeois too […]

    Pingback by RE: The Stability of the Middle Classes « Plumb Lines — March 26, 2009 @ 11:55 am

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