We have seen already that Marxists have a problem with the idea of utopia. This is one reason why they reject the illusion that, just because chief executives nowadays might sport sneakers, listen to Rage Against the Machine and beseech their employees to call them “Cuddlykins,” social class has been swept from the face of the earth. Marxism does not define class in terms of style, status, income, accent, occupation or whether you have ducks or Degas on the wall. Socialist men and women have not fought and sometimes died over the centuries simply to bring an end to snobbery.
The quaint American concept of “classism” would seem to suggest that class is mostly a question of attitude. The middle class should stop feeling contemptuous of the working class rather as whites should stop feeling superior to African Americans. But Marxism is not a question of attitude. Class for Marxism, rather like virtue for Aristotle, is not a matter of how you are feeling but of what you are doing. It is a question of where you stand within a particular mode of production—whether as a slave, self-employed peasant, agricultural tenant, owner of capital, financier, seller of one’s labour power, petty proprietor and so on. Marxism has not been put out of business because Etonians have started to drop their aitches, princes of the royal household puke in the gutter outside nightclubs, or some more antique forms of class distinction have been blurred by the universal solvent known as money. The fact that the European aristocracy are honoured to hobnob with Mick Jagger has signally failed to usher in the classless society.
Why Marx Was Right