Zadnje dni je tudi v naš miselni prostor vstopil vsaj zame dokaj nov pojem “mezdne buržoazije”. Če je verjeti časopisom, naj bi bil njegov avtor filozof Jean-Claude Milner, v zadnjih tekstih pa ga popularizira predvsem S. Žižek. Če zelo poenostavim: družba se danes deli bolj ali manj na dva sloja: na mezdno buržoazijo in na proletariat. Bistvena razlika med obema slojema je, da so pripadniki “mezdne buržoazije” za svoje delo bolje plačani, imajo več prostega časa in več ugodnosti. Umestitev v posamezni sloj pa praviloma ni vezana na sposobnosti posameznika, ampak je dokaj arbitrarna.
V novi strukturi z neoprijemljivim lastniškim sistemom je čedalje manj tradicionalnih kapitalistov, razlike obstajajo le znotraj novega sloja (mezdne buržoazije), kamor se uvrščajo vsi, od managerjev, novinarjev, umetnikov do odvetnikov, zdravnikov, sodnikov, … Ta sloj je priviligiran samo navidezno, saj ga sistem po potrebi v krizi porine k proletarcem. … Tako si stavko danes lahko »privošči« le mezdna buržoazija, ki pa stavka le zato, da bi ohranila svoj status in razliko s proletariatom. Iz tega vidika lahko razumemo tudi proteste študentov, »ne zato, ker so solidarni z delavci, ampak zato, ker nočejo postati delavci. Ker čutijo, da ti vsa izobrazba ne garantira statusa mezdne buržoazije,« … (vir: Kaj naj v današnji krizi naredi pravi marksist?)
Bolj obširno in kar malo strašljivo, je vse skupaj razloženo v članku The Revolt of the Salaried Bourgeoisie · LRB 11 January 2012, ki ga velja prebrati, pa če ste po srcu levičarji ali desničarji. Navajam samo nekaj odlomkov:
How did Bill Gates become the richest man in America? … Gates effectively privatised part of the general intellect and became rich by appropriating the rent that followed from that.
… The result is not, as Marx seems to have expected, the self-dissolution of capitalism, but the gradual transformation of the profit generated by the exploitation of labour into rent appropriated through the privatisation of knowledge.
The same goes for natural resources, the exploitation of which is one of the world’s main sources of rent. …
… what effectively ruined the Communist regimes was their inability to accommodate to the new social logic sustained by the information revolution: they tried to steer the revolution making it into yet another large-scale centralised state-planning project. …
If the old capitalism ideally involved an entrepreneur who invested (his own or borrowed) money into production that he organised and ran and then reaped the profit, a new ideal type is emerging today: no longer the entrepreneur who owns his company, but the expert manager (or a managerial board presided over by a CEO) who runs a company owned by banks (also run by managers who don’t own the bank) or dispersed investors. In this new ideal type of capitalism, the old bourgeoisie, rendered non-functional, is refunctionalised as salaried management: the new bourgeoisie gets wages, and even if they own part of their company, they earn stocks as part of their remuneration for their work (‘bonuses’ for their ‘success’).
This new bourgeoisie still appropriates surplus value, but in the (mystified) form of what has been called ‘surplus wage’: they are paid rather more than the proletarian ‘minimum wage’ (an often mythic point of reference whose only real example in today’s global economy is the wage of a sweatshop worker in China or Indonesia), and it is this distinction from common proletarians which determines their status. The bourgeoisie in the classic sense thus tends to disappear: capitalists reappear as a subset of salaried workers, as managers who are qualified to earn more by virtue of their competence (which is why pseudo-scientific ‘evaluation’ is crucial: it legitimises disparities in earnings). Far from being limited to managers, the category of workers earning a surplus wage extends to all sorts of experts, administrators, public servants, doctors, lawyers, journalists, intellectuals and artists. The surplus they get takes two forms: more money (for managers etc), but also less work and more free time (for – some – intellectuals, but also for state administrators etc).
The evaluative procedure that qualifies some workers to receive a surplus wage is an arbitrary mechanism of power and ideology, with no serious link to actual competence; the surplus wage exists not for economic but for political reasons: to maintain a ‘middle class’ for the purpose of social stability. The arbitrariness of social hierarchy is not a mistake, but the whole point, with the arbitrariness of evaluation playing an analogous role to the arbitrariness of market success. Violence threatens to explode not when there is too much contingency in the social space, but when one tries to eliminate contingency. …
The notion of surplus wage also throws new light on the ongoing ‘anti-capitalist’ protests. In times of crisis, the obvious candidates for ‘belt-tightening’ are the lower levels of the salaried bourgeoisie: political protest is their only recourse, if they are to avoid joining the proletariat. Although their protests are nominally directed at the brutal logic of the market, they are in effect protesting against the gradual erosion of their (politically) privileged economic place. … These are not proletarian protests, but protests against the threat of being reduced to proletarians. Who dares strike today, when having a permanent job has itself become a privilege? Not low-paid workers in (what remains of) the textile industry etc, but those privileged workers with guaranteed jobs (teachers, public transport workers, police). This also accounts for the wave of student protests: their main motivation is arguably the fear that higher education will no longer guarantee them a surplus wage in later life.
At the same time it is clear that the huge revival of protests over the past year, from the Arab Spring to Western Europe, from Occupy Wall Street to China, from Spain to Greece, should not be dismissed as merely a revolt of the salaried bourgeoisie. Each case has to be taken on its own merits. The student protests against university reform in the UK were clearly different from August’s riots, which were a consumerist carnival of destruction, a true outburst of the excluded. One can argue that the uprisings in Egypt began in part as a revolt of the salaried bourgeoisie (educated young people protesting about their lack of prospects), but this was only one aspect of a larger protest against an oppressive regime. On the other hand, the protest hardly mobilised poor workers and peasants and the electoral victory of the Islamists is an indication of the narrow social base of the original secular protest. Greece is a special case: in the last decades, a new salaried bourgeoisie (especially in the over-extended state administration) was created thanks to EU financial help and loans, and the protests were motivated in large part by the threat of losing this privilege.