The New Class War: Saving Democracy From the Managerial Elite; by Michael Lind; Portfolio; 224 pp., $25.00
A mostly white, cosmopolitan “overclass” rules America with a technocratic fist through the union of public and private spheres after pulling off a “revolution from above,” Michael Lind argues in his latest book.
As Lind sees it, the country’s political institutions are a façade for the corporate state, while our government is merely an instrument for the rootless transnational elite and avaricious politicians, both of whom are aided by a vast army of bureaucrats teeming with resentment for those whose lives they manage. The managed—that is, the rest of us—are lumped into a racially divided, proletarianesque working-class, with a largely native-born, white core. Lind writes:
Working-class immigrants and some native minority group members whose personal conditions are improving compete with many members of the native working class, mostly but not exclusively white, who find their economic status, political power, and cultural dignity under threat from below as well as from above. The only winners are a third group: the mostly native, mostly white overclass elites who benefit from the division of the working class.
Lind’s book explores the exploitation of immigration as a vehicle for overclass enrichment. On the one hand, immigration depresses wages for native-born Americans and robs them of job opportunities. It also racializes the concept of the social safety net, as immigrants and minorities tend to burden public services which are subsidized by white, working-class Americans.
On the other hand, overclass hubs such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York depend upon the exploitation of immigrants as modern-day indentured servants. The economies of these locales are dependent on a low-paid servant class primarily made up of legal and illegal immigrants, whose perennially renewed presence keeps real estate prices high even as Americans flee the smut and smog for the hills.
Had international migration not compensated for the exodus of natives from the 1970s onward, Lind notes, New York City would have lost population, shrinking its property tax base by $500 billion over 30 years. Immigration keeps our urban Babylons alive even after they have become the epicenters of our national death.
Lind’s book is also filled with useful data on the issue of global labor arbitrage—which is what he calls the overclass strategy of taking advantage of differences in wages, regulations, or taxes among different political jurisdictions in the world or among states or provinces in a federal nation-state. For example, Lind notes, there is a single office building in Grand Cayman that is the registered legal address of 18,557 companies. This takes advantage of the Caribbean island’s lack of corporate tax, income tax, property taxes, capital gains taxes, payroll taxes, and withholding taxes.
A meta-analysis of American policy issues by professors Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page demonstrated the existence of this overclass that truly rules and governs America, regardless of the systems of democratic governance. Their study, published by the American Political Science Association in September 2014, concluded that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”
The only solution to overclass domination, in Lind’s view, is to stage a “counterrevolution from below” led by populists—defined as those who favor maintaining or increasing Social Security spending, while maintaining or decreasing immigration. Lind points to a 2015 survey that estimates populists constitute 40 percent of the electorate, showing potential for this kind of middle-class uprising.
The aim of such a populist revolution is “democratic pluralism,” a system in which power brokers who answer to working class and rural constituencies bargain with national elites in the realms of government, economics, and culture. This system can bring together “American Atheists and neo-pagan creeds like Wiccans” to the table of comity with Christians, and pour oil upon the troubled waters of race relations, Lind writes. Readers may wonder if Lind is describing a nation or a polyglot boardinghouse.
Lind’s prescient analysis skewers prevailing pieties. However, he also bows to many other conventional pieties, such as “democratic pluralism,” which is Lind’s way of addressing growing and virtually irreconcilable differences among Americans—by not addressing these differences at all. He seems to suggest that we must continue to pretend that all cultures, creeds, and social dispositions are equally valuable to the fabric of America’s national life.
Moreover, Lind’s work ultimately derives from, but does not improve upon, James Burnham’s theory of managerialism, and his work is haunted by the unnamed specter of Burnham’s greatest disciple, Samuel T. Francis—the long-time Chronicles columnist who died in 2005. Lind surely knows very well who Francis is and of Francis’s posthumous magnum opus on the concept of the managerial elite, Leviathan and Its Enemies (2016).
Nevertheless, Lind claims his intellectual debt on managerialism is to the young Julius Krein, a 2008 graduate of Harvard College and the editor of the journal American Affairs. Krein is a much safer muse for Lind to name than Francis. In his own essay on Burnham and managerialism, Krein mentions Francis only to scold him for “malignant statements.” It’s hard to think of anything that Francis ever wrote that approximates the malignant anti-white racial sludge spewing forth from America’s current mainstream conservative and liberal media.
Curiously, in the same American Affairs essay in which Krein dismisses Francis as a Deplorable, he goes on to essentially rehash the arguments in Leviathan and Its Enemies, which was written long before Krein’s essay. Astute readers will notice similar themes and sources in Krein’s essay that Francis treated in far greater and more interesting detail in Leviathan—and this holds true of Lind’s latest book as well.
Francis was then, and still is, ahead of the game, especially as it is played by Lind and Krein. The lines of managerialism were traced at least a decade before Lind, by Francis in Power and History: The Political Thought of James Burnham (1984). The “transition from capitalism to managerial society would be as profound and as world-historically important as the earlier transition from feudalism to capitalism,” Francis writes in that volume. And, long before Lind or Krein, Francis took aim at the ruling class and its allies in his monthly Chronicles column, “Principalities and Powers.”
In June 1985, Francis prophesied the coming “revolution from the right,” which he defined as “a rejection of both bourgeois comforts as well as of managerial humanism and social engineering, and an affirmation of our national identity and its destiny.”
In April 1990, quoting political scientist Andrew Hacker, Francis warned that “‘the new middle class has many attributes in common with the traditional conception of a proletariat.’ In the emerging global managerial regime, the middle class may soon be reduced to the other attributes of a proletariat as well.”
In September 1991, Francis argued that most Americans have populist tendencies and do not resent the “federal megastate” in principle. Rather, “what they do object to is that it doesn’t work all that well—that is, that they don’t get from it as much as they want or expect—or that federal regimentation often seems to help others more than it helps them. Middle Americans don’t object to the megastate in principle, but they do object to it in practice.”
In October 1995, he wrote that “the conflict over sovereignty is clearly linked to the continuing struggle for political and cultural power between Middle American populism and the incumbent elites that currently have a grip on power.”
Though Francis never wrote a sustained treatise on his critical method, which was to analyze the emerging new class war in America, he applied that method to the critical issues of his day in columns he penned.
Where Francis surpassed Lind, and perhaps even Burnham, was in seeing that the overclass utilizes the immigrant and aggrieved nonwhite underclass to politically, economically, culturally, and psychically crush the primarily white middle.
Certainly, there are nonwhite and lawful immigrant components to that middle, but it is, as Lind himself admits, and Francis always knew, largely white. The managerial elite exploits anti-white resentment and “immigration as a new fulcrum of bureaucratic power,” Francis wrote. “Hate crime’ laws, racial sensitivity courses, and anti-Western Third World curricula are among the instruments for imposing a new cosmopolitan cultural hegemony and plowing under Euro-American patterns of culture…”
These are the whole truths about the managerial elite that neither Lind nor Krein dare tell. Though Francis is gone, his influence has spread far and wide, and is felt perhaps especially by the ingrates standing on his shoulders.
Consider America’s situation today. Law-abiding Americans are technically still living under draconian, nationwide lockdowns under the pretense of fighting a deadly pathogen. Simultaneously, the cities they live in were subjected to racially motivated rioting, in which mob members conspicuously flouted public health guidelines, engaging in vandalism, assault, arson, murder, and mayhem, with the tacit acceptance of government and the media. The contradictory nature of this situation was predicted long ago by Francis, writing in these pages in July 1994:
This condition, which in some of my columns I have called ‘anarcho-tyranny,’ is essentially a kind of Hegelian synthesis of what appear to be dialectical opposites, the combination of oppressive government power against the innocent and the law-abiding and, simultaneously, a grotesque paralysis of the ability or the will to use that power to carry out basic public duties such as protection of public safety.
Francis argued this phenomenon was “closely related to the managerial revolution in the United States and the emergence of centralized, technically skilled elites that specialize in the usurpation of previously autonomous social functions.”
Americans now truly feel that they are living at once under tyranny and anarchy. They rightly fear that they will get more prison time if they are forced to use a weapon in self-defense than any violent rioter would ever see. Meanwhile the potential for violent conflict has increased as police have retreated and the racial outrage mobs have targeted their communities.
Americans in the mass-managerial regime are dependent on mass corporations, offices, and factories for their livelihoods, just as they are dependent on mass political parties and illusory mass participation in the political process. And they are dependent on, and engulfed by, the mass culture continuously fed to them in spectator sports, television, film, art, music, and popular literature. In all these dimensions of life, Americans increasingly surrender the active and participatory roles that republican government demands. So, too, in anarcho-tyranny they are habituated to an entirely passive role in securing their personal protection from criminal violence.
Much of this review, ostensibly of Lind’s latest book, has focused on the writing of Francis. But this is appropriate, given that Lind’s work is so derivative and such a pale comparison to his predecessor’s. Readers in search of a mind capable of understanding the machinations of managerialism would be simply better served by turning to Francis’s Chronicles columns—which are as relevant as ever and available online—or to Francis’s Leviathan and Its Enemies.
Lind is one of several imitators of this unfairly neglected but unquestionably seminal thinker. Francis brilliantly deconstructed and penetrated the armor of the managerial leviathan and challenged the mythology of the overclass. No writer before or since has been able to come close to his insight.