Leftists in general, and American leftists in particular, have spent a lot of effort trying to figure out how to describe the class composition of contemporary society; and this anthology is a good example of the blind alley to which most such attempts have led. The first essay, a sacrificial lamb by Barbara and John Ehrenreich, argues that there exists a class of professionals and managers (the ""PMC"") whose role it is to reproduce capitalist social relations through schools, social-services, hospitals, job hierarchies, etc. The Ehrenreichs attempt to trace the rise of this class and its political affiliations, arguing that it formed the basis for the Progressives and spawned New Leftists like themselves (mea culpa). Their meager conclusion is that the left's task for the future is to rally progressive elements of this class to the working class in a new alliance, made possible, naturally, through the ""contradictions"" of the PMC's position. The remaining eight essays take the Ehrenreichs' argument--such as it is--apart. Dick Howard and Jean Cohen assault the very basis of the Marxist notion of class, arguing that the interest-production orientation is useless in a period of manipulated needs and politicization of the economy. From the other side of orthodoxy, Al Syzmansky bluntly denies the PMC's existence, saying it's all the petit bourgeoisie under a new name. Simple enough? Other essays fall in between--Eric Olin Wright briefly points out the variety of roles intellectuals can play, while Ann Ferguson argues that women are the really revolutionary class, and David Noble tries to inject a note of sanity by showing the historical absurdity of the PMC argument--but all agree that the Ehrenreichs have missed the boat. Outsiders may wonder what all the fuss is about, but the idea that the revolution depends on getting the labels right dies hard.
Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1978
Page Count: -
Publisher: South End Press (P.O. Box 68 Astor Station, Boston, Mass. 02123)