If recent developments in our nation’s politics have shown us anything, it is that the classical Right-Left political spectrum is either outdated or much more complicated than we commonly assume it is. There are many ways to account for this age-old division: are you on the side of tradition or of progress? Are you on the side of religion or of secularism? Are you a nationalist or a globalist? How one accounts for the composition of the Right and Left quickly becomes complicated by the inclusion of all these factors.
One factor that is commonly neglected in the discourse is that of class. In their books on The Crisis of Neoliberalism and Managerial Capitalism, Gerard Dumenil and Dominique Levy analyze the Right-Left division into an issue of class: to simplify, the Right is constituted by the bourgeois-capitalist class, whereas the Left is constituted by the proletarian-worker class. The tilt of politics towards either the Right or the Left is thus ascertained by an analysis of the class composition of a given social order.
In this vein, Dumenil and Levy compare the post-war and neolilberal orders through the lens of a modified version of classical Marxist class-analysis. But instead of the traditional bipolar class framework, they analyze modern American capitalism using a tripolar framework, consisting of the capitalist class, the managerial class, and the popular or working classes. Yet the fundamental determinants of the political spectrum remain the two major classes of the capitalists and the proletariat. The managerial classes, who play a pivotal role in the construction of a given order, display their political leanings by the cross-class alliances which they choose to make.
Accordingly, the post-war political economy was structured by an alliance of the managerial with the popular classes, while the capitalist class was subject to the discipline of the state. The struggle for living wages, a high quality of life, and overall inclusion in the shared prosperity of the nation only made any headway because the popular classes found an ally in the technocratic managerial class. Union representation peaked during this period, jobs were stable, productivity was high, the tax system was progressive, and despite occasional setbacks and irregularities this era has generally come to be known as…