When I hear politicians, of various tendencies, expound on aid to the middle class, on all that they do, have done, or would do, for this so-called middle class, the old sociologist that I am, born in 1943, trained at the University of Montreal in the early 1960s, delves into his modest knowledge, trying to understand what is the purpose of these allusions to a social class with imprecise outlines.
Legault has said several times that we can also help the middle class. But who was he talking about? Why the “too”? Who else do we need to help? This short mention of Legault interested me a lot, and a little obsessed.
As for Justin Trudeau, he often talks about people belonging to the middle class and all those who would like to join this dream class. Trudeau reminds us, on a regular basis, that he and his government have been working very hard, for several moons, to help the so-called middle class. Trudeau likes to address this imprecise middle class, an apparent symbol of prosperity, stability, success, even happiness.
Born in 1943, I have, first in primary school, and sometimes during my classical course, heard talk, more or less regularly, of the social classes whose destiny, according to the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, doctrine of a corporatist tendency, would be that of collaboration between classes, of good understanding between the rich, the “middle” and the destitute, these destitute (the proles?) who must be helped, in a charitable way, by the most favored, by those to whom life has given much.
Sometimes, during the first 20 years of my life, until 1963, I happened to hear, here and there, about a certain Karl Marx who advocated, it was said, often with concern, the struggle of the classes, who dreamed of an eventual proletarian revolution. It was, of course, very worrying.
Once I arrived at the University of Montreal in 1963, I heard talk, in varying ways according to the professors, of social strata, of social stratification and sometimes of the ruthless struggle, announced for a long time, between the bourgeoisie, the exploiting class , and the proletariat which had to free itself from its chains.
I could say a lot about this wonderful university period. We discovered there, in a stimulating way, a plurality of looks, points of view, which was stimulating, after the eight years of the so-called classic course. Professors introduced us to American, so-called functionalist sociology; other teachers were telling us about social classes, the class struggle; others, like Marcel Rioux, tried, in a very theoretical but interesting way, to discover the connections between functionalism and Marxism, to propose a so-called critical sociology.
All this to say that during my university years, we were told about social strata or social classes, depending on the methodological, even philosophical choices. Either there was the upper, the middle and the lower, or there was the bourgeoisie, with its degrees, and the multifaceted proletariat.
When I taught sociology between 1966 and 2003, the 1970s were special, since there were, at the time, many so-called Marxist currents, based either on Maoism or on Trotskyism, if I simplify the whole thing. It was difficult to talk about social classes. A very active minority constantly intervened to recall the essential: the class struggle and the inevitable proletarian revolution.
I know that at UQAM, giving a course in sociology on social classes was a challenge, a challenge that was offered to me, which I refused, due to my mental health.
There would be so much to say, again and again. This question fascinates me, even though I will soon be in my eighties.
Today, we talk less about social classes and the struggle we wanted to end. We are more interested in minorities, too long forgotten, absent from the crosshairs of concerns, for a long time.
There would be so much to say!