Week 13: On Class and Love (1)
Once again, I end up writing a lot more than was planned, so I divide this post into two. In response to NG’s Week 12 post on infidelity, I would like to discuss love (and its failings) and the supreme influence of class. For the first part I layed down the basics, and differentiated love and infidelity between the two major classes. For the second, I begin with the middle class (where NG, I, and our friends originate) then end with the idea I started with on this part.
Cutting my own argument short, ultimately and however cliche it may sound, humanity does not and can not live alone nor primarily for love and other romantic and passionate feelings. Or at least not yet.
As long as contradicting socioeconomic classes persists, any choice made, any path taken, any idea thought, any deed done by any individual and any group of people, however conscious or not, will inevitably contain social, economic, and political aspects — it will have an objective class character, apart from the subjective will, desires, and declarations of wo/men (the former actually shapes the latter).
This applies to the very things and people we desire, love, have romantic feelings for, or are passionate about. A middle-class city girl could reasonably be expected to want to become a celebrity icon given the conditioning she has undergone from modern mass media, or whatever professional her parents or close relatives have been (teacher, lawyer, etc.); while a similarly aged daughter of an indigenous woman from a relatively isolated tribe could likewise be expected to dream of becoming a community leader (be it through healing activities or education). Objective socioeconomic realities form the basis from which wo/men make choices, before these choices are influenced by their individual personalities. Consequently, it shapes our very minds by influencing our very desires and preferences, often in favor of whatever socioeconomic class we originate from.
The subjective will however is not futile. As all things are ever in contradiction, so is objective reality with subjective forces. Wo/men, through their actions themselves shape socioeconomic realities. Albeit coming from a conditioned state, burdened with the limitations imposed (and possibilities provided) on the first hand by the existing conditions. Hence, the city girl may want to become a celebrity or professional to advance some sort of advocacy or to prove a point against whatever discrimination, or on a micro scale, simply improve the life of her middle-class family.
All these are basic Marxist tenets, first articulated way back the late 1800s. Yet it still applies today. Humanity is yet to surpass this protracted historical stage of socioeconomic classes. And so, the dialectical relation between objective class reality and the subjective will applies also with “individual sex love” (as Engels put it).
Individual considerations or orientation in choosing romantic partners or building relationships are shaped primarily by one’s class background. For the few owning class, marriage is generally a matter of keeping the huge family property within. And so it becomes the issue not just of the couple but of the whole family (primarily of the head), and exhausts legal and formal assurances. For the millions of property-less working class, formal marriage is generally a pointless luxury. Instead they practice what could be considered a modern reincarnation of the originally primitive, pairing marriage. Couples are not necessarily married under contract but nevertheless live together and strive to build a family. Having virtually no property to speak of, the lowest of the working class, the proletariat, have, more or less, no other consideration but sheer individual preferences (eg. is s/he industrious? is s/he respectable? humorous? tidy? etc. etc.).
Infidelity then is also different for both classes. For the owning ones, the bourgeoisie, infidelity is an almost established fact; prostitution is but the other face of marriage’s coin. Since their formal union does not necessarily factor in their individual preferences, those of the owning classes find solace in hiring prostitutes, or having other lovers. However, even when the bourgeois is seriously in a relationship with his/her other lover, class relationships are in effect. Meaning, their supposed love is infected still by the antagonisms of class society. And so a bourgeois partner is often dominant, in some cases violently, over his/her lower class lover, or the lower class lover is in it just for the material benefit. Etc.
Among the proletariat however, infidelity as such is more or less impossible. Infidelity, as in having two or more secret partners, have material requisites for their existence and maintenance, and bluntly, the proletariat have no such means. Perhaps most notably, they do not have the mere luxury of idle time. Still, however, some of them can be turned into lovers or prostitutes by higher class individuals who can support them materially, essentially bourgeoisifying them. Differences are still present however. And these are sources of fights and problems. However, when such differences and problems reach a point of irreconcilability, proletariat couples break up with relative ease (compared to bourgeois ones, with whole fortunes on the balance). This is why their relationships are closer to the primitive pairing marriage, since when the love is lost, as they say, divorce or the dissolution of the pairing, however informal, is easily granted.
[It must be pointed out however that, especially in societies wherein feudal-patriarchy reign and since its vestiges persists everywhere else, the economic dependence of domestic women on working men force even proletarian women to remain in abusive or one-sided relationships. This condition will however be gradually changed by the complete participation of women into modern industry and transformation of childcare and other traditional domestic work into industries. This is however resisted by monopoly capitalist social relations which force the under-development of backward neo/colonies, fully integrating feudalism (and with it patriarchy) into the global imperialist order. But that is for another discussion.]