This post by Richard reminds me that we need more class-consciousness.
Rightists often argue that class war can be divisive and mean-spirited. But as Richard points out, the opposite is (also?) true. The reduced salience of class divisions has led not to a healthy community spirit but to its opposite: ethnic divisions which pit natives against immigrants; and a competitive individualism which celebrates fame and which blames "losers" for their poverty.
This is especially egregious because it is founded upon factual and cognitive error. Factual error, because people over-estimate the number of immigrants in the country and the harm they do to wages whilst also under-estimating (pdf) class divisions in the sense of the gap between bosses and workers' pay. Cognitive error, because a number of cognitive biases such as the anchoring effect, just world illusion, adaptive preferences and priming cause people tolerate (pdf) class divisions and inequality more than they otherwise would.
From this perspective, greater class consciousness would represent a more accurate perception of the real world.
Such consciousness would have another virtue. Emily Thornberry's notorious tweet was so toxic because it was thought to show that Labour front-benchers don't understand working people. This gulf between Labour and workers means there is a danger that the Labour party will not serve the interests of workers; as Phil says, Labour doesn't appreciate the uncertainty that working people face. Indeed, Gilles Saint-Paul has argued that centre-left parties might have an interest in keeping workers poor in order to maintain demand for redistribution and hence support for such parties. Perhaps that pushes thing too far, but nevertheless basic agency theory tells us that if one group delegates the preservation of its interests to another group, the job is likely to be ill-done. Greater class consciousness would mitigate this problem, by preventing the Labour party from neglecting workers' interests.
In all these senses, more class consciousness would be good politics - not in the debased modern sense of generating headlines in the next 24-hour news cycle, but in the real sense of creating the potential for genuine social change.
It would also be good economics. One of the big issues of our time is how to increase real wages. Rightists are correct to note that, historically, capitalism did a good job here. But in an era of secular stagnation, this might no longer be the case: Chris Giles says real wages for younger workers are now back at 1988's levels - that's an entire quarter-century of stagnation. The big question, therefore, is how to increase productivity and to ensure that workers get the fruits of this. And there's a pretty obvious possible answer. A decent body of research shows that forms (pdf) of worker ownership (pdf) and control can (pdf) raise efficiency. As the Waitrose advert says. "When you own something, you care a little more." (Yes, there is now more economic and political sense in a TV advert than there is in the Labour party.) It's likely that greater worker ownership and control can only be achieved by a more militant assertion of working class power and interests.
But how to achieve this? It is an oft-remarked paradox that the left has been good at creating hegemony to fight against racism, sexism and homophobia but appalling at creating class hegemony. Until this changes, we might well face continued economic stagnation and social decay.