When it comes to defining what the concept of social class stands for, one will be much better off sticking with the Marxist interpretation – social class, is the spatially extended group of people, whose existential stances in life reflect what happened to be these people’s place in the hierarchical structure of a particular society. In its turn, this implies that the members of the same social class pursue the same set of socio-economic agendas.
According to Marx, there are three major social classes, which consist of the representatives of the bourgeoisie, proletariat (workers) and peasantry (farmers). Given the fact that the amount of natural resources/production capital in the world is limited, and the fact that the representatives of social elites (bourgeoisie) control governments in capitalist countries, this enables the rich to become richer, at the expense of exploiting ‘workers’ and ‘farmers’.
In the allegorical sense of this word, the mentioned state of affairs in being reflected by the essence of the dynamics in the arena of international politics: “Within the capitalist world-economy, nations are allocated to one of the four zones based on the level of exploitation they endure and their ability to exploit other nations” (Chesters 250).
Because the factor of capitalist exploitation in Canadian society is not being quite as clearly defined, as it happened to be the case in the Second and Third world countries, this prompts some political scientists to suggest that Canada is on its way of becoming a ‘quasi-classless’ country.
Another indication that Canada cannot be referred to as a socially stratified country, they consider the emergence of the so-called ‘working middle-class’, the representatives of which are able to enjoy comparatively high standards of living, while accounting for a good half of the country’s adult population.
As one of the possible explanations of the phenomena in question, these social scientists point out the fact that for the duration of the last few decades (until the year 2008), the federal government remained strongly committed towards the idea of turning Canada into a ‘welfare state’ (“Social Democratic Values” par. 4).
What is also being mentioned, in this respect, is that the ongoing technological progress creates the objective prerequisites for the continual growth of the ‘middle class’ – commonly perceived as yet another sign that Canadian society is becoming increasingly egalitarian: “Essential to the emergence of today’s working class-middle class was the technological revolution… At the center of the new technology were ‘thinking machines’ – computers – which were to transform the productive process” (“Toward the New Economy” par. 5).
This point of view, however, cannot be referred to as such that holds much water. The actual explanation, as to why social antagonisms within Canadian society cannot be considered very acute, has very little to do with what particular political party happened to control most seats in the Parliament. Rather, this state of affairs reflects the following:
- Canada is a resource-rich country with a comparatively small population,
- The country’s largest manufacturing companies have long ago affiliated themselves with the practice of outsourcing,
- As it happened to be the case with just about any other Western country, the main reason why Canada is able to provide high standards of living for its citizens, is that it allows them to consume more than they actually produce, which in turn results in the exponential grown of the country’s budget deficit.
Thus, Canadian society continues to be divided along class-lines, which in turn implies that the application of the concept of social class will prove thoroughly appropriate, within the context of how one may go describing what this society is all about. This simply could not be otherwise, because Canadian society never ceased being profit-driven (capitalist). The most notable discursive implication of this suggestion is that the social stratification is bound to define the realities of Canadian living.
This will persist being the case for as long as Canadian society remains essentially Capitalist and continues to become ever more technologically advanced. This particular scenario appears to be predetermined by one of the main principles of political economy – the effectiveness of a capitalist economy positively relates to how strongly the factor of ‘division of labor’ affects its functioning.
Nevertheless, it is also being known that the more efficient (‘specialized’) a capitalist economy happened to be, the more acute are the individual risks of investing in it. Therefore, in order to maintain the appropriate level of its competitiveness, a profit-driven economic system must remain in the state of a constant expansion, as only the mean of postponing the eventual ‘crisis of capital’, which always takes place when the extent of the economy’s ‘specialization’ reaches a critical point.
This explains the phenomenon of Canada’s disproportionally large ‘middle class’ – the country’s economy has long ago grown thoroughly globalized, which in turn means that, due to the forces of outsourcing, Canadian society no longer experiences much of a need in ‘blue collar’ workers (proletariat).
Instead, up until recently, it used to experience the demand in ‘managers’ – this is the actual reason why many representatives of the country’s ‘middle class’, such as countless lawyers, PR-specialists, financial advisors, governmental bureaucrats, etc., are able to enjoy prosperity, without being required to directly contribute to the generation of national wealth.
This, however, does not make them endowed with ‘class consciousness’ to any lesser extent – something that can be illustrated, in regards to the strong influence, exerted by labor unions on the functioning of Canada’s economy.
The fact that the concept of social class indeed applies to Canadian society became self-evident to just about anyone, in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008-2009, when the federal government did not have any other choice but to reduce spending on the implementation a number of different social programs.
It is understood, of course, that this will contribute to the process of a gap between the country’s poor and rich growing increasingly wider. As a result, Canadian society will become ‘class-conscious’ again, just as it used to be the case during the course of the 20th century’s thirties and sixties.
Thus, it will be fully appropriate to reinstate once again that it is indeed thoroughly justified to refer to the concept of social class, within the context of how one goes about expounding on what should be considered the discursive foundation of contemporary Canadian society.
Chesters, J. “Wealth Inequality and Stratification in the World Capitalist Economy.” Perspectives on Global Development & Technology 12.1/2 (2013): 246-265. Print.
Leroux, D. “Entrenching Euro-Settlerism: Multiculturalism and the Politics of Nationalism in Québec.” Canadian Ethnic Studies 46.2 (2014): 133-140. Print.
Toward the New Economy 2014. Web.
Social Democratic Values 2014. Web.