This essay is a response to Zak Cope’s defense of the “labor aristocracy” theory of working class reformism and conservatism. Specifically, the essay engages Cope’s claims that British colonialism, imperialist investment, and transnational “monopoly” corporations have accrued “surplus-profits” that have underwritten the existence of a “labor aristocracy” historically, and that “unequal exchange” today has transformed almost the entirety of the working classes of the global North into a labor aristocracy. We conclude with a presentation of an alternative explanation of working class reformism and conservatism.
I want to thank the editors of Research in Political Economy for the opportunity to response to Cope’s (2013) critique of my work on the labor aristocracy (Post, 2006a, 2006b, 2010). The question of the roots of working class reformism and conservatism is a crucial one for the global anti-capitalist and Marxist left. The debate on whether or not higher than average (“super” or “surplus”) profits derived from colonialism, imperialist investment, or global monopoly-oligopoly is the basis for the higher standards of living of workers in the developed capitalist countries is not simply a “theoretical” issue. At stake is whether or not workers in the global North are potentially anti-capitalist and revolutionary or are materially tied to their own ruling classes.
Post, C. (2014), "The Roots of Working Class Reformism and Conservatism: A Response to Zak Cope’s Defense of the “Labor Aristocracy” Thesis", Research in Political Economy (Research in Political Economy, Vol. 29), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 241-260. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0161-723020140000029008
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