One of the great “politically correct” myths is that people are born equal. A fundamental strength of the human race is that we are all unique individuals and not identical copies rolling off a production line. Our genes fix the envelope of our potential capabilities, and our upbringing determines to what extent we fulfill our potentials. The fundamental fallacy in Marxist theory is in the assumption that a classless society is desirable. In fact it is not even possible. Forcing or coercing unequal people to be “equal” is always unjust.
Some have considered class a “necessary evil” and most social theories assume that having classes is, in itself, unfair and a “bad thing”. But there is no example of a successful (sustainable and growing) society which has not had social classes of some kind. Ruling and ruled, rich or poor, aristocracy and peasants, masters and slaves, the political class and the great unwashed, workers and bosses, union members and others, employers and employees, producers and consumers, Brahmins and the Dalits. The Guilds were about capability and competence to begin with but later became contaminated when they became “closed”. Secret societies grew to try and create new classes which cut across other class boundaries. My hypothesis is that in any society, the inherent variations in human capabilities and competences make social classes both inevitable and necessary. Human diversity (genetic and epigenetic) is (I assume) a fundamental component for the success of the human race (again defined as being sustainable and growing). That diversity is what makes people unequal. The inequality is not, in itself, unjust. It just is. We are not clones – thank goodness.
Since the French revolution, “egalite” has been made into a fashionable – but false god. A search for “equality” is not just incompatible with, it is also opposed, to a search for justice. It is just for a sick person to receive more care than a healthy person but it is unequal. Affirmative action may be one way of approaching fairness – but it is unequal. The “better man wins” in the Olympics is a celebration of the inherent inequality among humans. If we wanted equality of result, Usain Bolt would have to be handicapped (about 10 m would do). The capitalist goal of “to each as he deserves” and the socialist objective of “to each as he needs” are both expressions which inherently acknowledge the reality of inequality. They both seek their definitions of what is just – not what is equal.
The real issue is not, I think, to seek a classless condition which would cause society to break down, but to achieve classes which are not unjust. Classes will appear as a natural consequence of humans being gregarious. The real solution, which may well have to be a dynamic solution to fit the times, is to design the class system to be used, rather than let it appear by default. Most of the perceived injustices of class are connected to either the classes being hereditary or because movement between the classes is forbidden. The Indian caste system is grossly unjust because it is both hereditary and it forbids movement between castes. Having a class system does not necessitate oppression or injustice. At any given time, even the much vaunted “open” Swedish society also has its functioning classes, but to its credit – and even though there is a not an insignificant hereditary component – movement of individuals across class lines is possible, regular and continuous.
The real question is what attributes to use in defining classes which help a society to function and which are not unjust. It cannot be along just hereditary lines and it cannot be just based on wealth. However any class system must be able to accommodate the realities of ancestry and wealth. Parents will always seek to give their children an advantage and wealth will always be able to purchase more. Whatever classes we invent must be capable of juxtaposing different levels of wealth within each class and must allow membership from any parentage. It should be possible to move from one class to another.
My choice of class system would then be one where the classes themselves did not create a hierarchy and where the main classification criterion would be based on the predominant, gainful occupation of the individual. Each class would have its share of rich and poor, idiots and geniuses, and its share of parasites. Classification would not be until the prefrontal cortex was fully developed (at 25). Everybody under 25 would be a non-adult and classless. Marriage across class lines would be permitted. Voting would then be restricted to adults.
I think 5 classes will do.