I ask not (just!) because I'm seeing what I want to see, but because such talk seems to vindicate - with a lag of 166 years! - something Marx and Engels wrote:
The lower strata of the middle class...all these sink gradually into the proletariat, partly because their diminutive capital does not suffice for the scale on which Modern Industry is carried on, and is swamped in the competition with the large capitalists, partly because their specialised skill is rendered worthless by new methods of production. Thus the proletariat is recruited from all classes of the population.
There are several processes at work here:
- Winner take all markets mean that "superstar" lawyers can earn a fortune, but at the expense of others.
- The use of IT, automation or just routine algorithms has led to a loss of professional judgment. Nicholas Carr has described how this has afflicted airline pilots, but a similar story could be told of banks' risk management.
This poses the question: in what sense can we speak of the "middle class"? From a Marxist point of view, class is not about whether you drink Pinot Grigio and watch films with subtitles, but about power. And the person on a "middle class" salary who faces an insecure future and domineering boss lacks power. He is, objectively, working class.
Classes are not a datum prior to the history of concrete struggles. Social reality is not given directly through our senses. As Marx said, and as Gramsci was fond of repeating, it is in the realm of ideology that people become conscious of social relations.
I fear, however, that ideology will prevent the "middle class" from identifying solidaristically with other members of the working class.