i) Working Class
The working class are those people who sell their labour for wages, and in Marx's terms, they create in that labour "surplus value", which the capitalists take from them. As a result, workers have relatively little control over the nature or products of their work.
Since Marx, the decline of the traditional manufacturing industries and the growth of the service economy have blurred the old class division between manual and non-manual labour. Moreover, consumerism has also dissolved the conventional links between class and culture by appropriating elements associated with different groups. As a result, it is challenging to discern outward differences based on class.
However, the working class still exists and includes white-collar employees since they too produce surplus value for the capitalists. Although it is possible to argue about the exact composition of these classes, there is a dominant class with the capacity to create and maintain conditions under which it can appropriate surplus labour from a subordinate class. In Marxist terms, it is this relation that is the source of poverty and inequality.
Wealth determines how far people can participate in society, but it also has profound intrinsic effects. This notion reiterates a phenomenon of class difference observed by George Orwell in his journalistic foray into the working-class territory of the industrial North, The Road to Wigan Pier (1937). In the book, Orwell testifies that 'nearly everything I think and do is the results of class-distinctions… the products of a special kind of upbringing and a special niche about halfway up the social hierarchy.'
This idea likely derived from Marx, who theorised a difference in consciousness based on accessibility to knowledge, cultural forms, and bourgeois language through his observations of middle-class English society.
All of this indicates that social class is more than an objective entity and that it has a fundamental impact on identity affecting our emotions, values and perceptions. So although you might consider yourself middle class, you can never escape your class roots.
At 14:30, 14th August 2009, I had an epiphany. It was a great day. I was researching in the library, and serendipitously there it was: the life-changing text, closeted away on 35mm micro-film. Life-changing for the better? Well, not yet, maybe never. But that's the nature of the beast, and it depends what you mean by 'better'.
In any case, it got me thinking: yes, this - this is why I'm here.
I wanted more.
It was the beginning of my journey into a subject and field of knowledge sorely lacking. One that was crying out for people like me: authentic, passionate and dedicated - people prepared to make sacrifices - as many writers/researchers do in pursuit of their passions make sacrifices. But (due to the nature of this particular beast), this required more sacrifice than most.
It led to my reading many subversive texts: socialist, feminist, literary, memoirs and autobiographies, and stories - fact and fiction - by authors from history who wrote about their struggles and experiences and certain kinds of protagonists for whom life is not a beach or one long party. People who fought against the unfairness that life had dealt them: some winning, some coming to terms with their incapacity in the scheme of things, and others just telling their own unremarkable stories for the sake of telling, but unwittingly writing themselves into history.
Texts I identified with: recognised the struggle, the anger, the desire and yes, the despair.
I needed these books in my life.
But that which inspired and motivated me those years ago has also hampered me. And the irony hasn't escaped me. But at least I now know I was shackled from the start.
And the life-changing text?