Social development is accelerating. The position of the lower social classes in all Western countries is deteriorating. Attempts to change the trend through elections have failed. In this situation, we need a systematic and scientific understanding of how the power and financial elite operate and, in particular, what their weaknesses are.
In my book Breached Enclosure, I liken the new aristocracy to top footballers. It’s just a comparison. And like any comparison, it shows that the two social classes have something in common. But only something. In many other ways, they are different.
Footballers share a similar view of the world, often have similar hairstyles, drive similar cars, go to the same restaurants and spend holidays in similar places. Even their wives look so much alike that if you switched them, most people wouldn’t notice the change (and who knows if the husbands would notice the change). So they think alike, have almost identical interests, and when push comes to shove, they can defend those common interests very effectively – like salaries or transfer terms.
Nevertheless, they are still able to play against each other with maximum effort, toughness and often trickiness. Just like members of the financial and power elite. But there is one unwritten rule in all this infighting. You can do basically anything to a member of the same social class, but you must not jeopardize the interest of the social class as a whole. A footballer can hurt his opponent, he can cheat, simulate or plot against others. That’s fixed by some sort of punishment. But imagine if a footballer set up a campaign against the absurdly high fees paid to players and that he severely criticised the ostentatious luxury that is typical of these people. Such a footballer will be ostracised by the whole community. No one will want to play with him, no one will want to put him on. In the end, he will have no choice but to leave the professional sport.
A somewhat crowded ivory tower
The new aristocracy differs from the top footballers not only in education, ability and ambition but also in the fact that it is a huge group. We arrive at the following numbers if we start from the often used sociological division between the discrete elite (owners of the largest estates) and the service elite (top managers).
The discrete elite comprises half a per cent of the population, that is, some four million people living mainly in Europe and the USA. In the age of private jets and electronic communication, it is not difficult for them to be in constant contact. A Finland or a Croatia. Enough people to maintain their own national culture.
The service elite numbers 3 – 5%, so it is a group of about 40 million, i.e. a Poland.
The line between the two groups is blurred. Many top executives are buying stocks. Indeed, the very richest are also active managers. Many members of the service elite study at the same elite schools as members of the discreet elite. When the daughter of an ordinary CEO grows up to be beautiful, she may think of marrying into the highest circles (just recall how Melinda met Bill). But the most important thing is that they all share the same basic values and approach to life. Some have three private jets and others are happy to rent a corporate jet twice a year. Some have a palace and others just a mansion in an upscale neighbourhood. But both have the same views on Donald Trump, migration, working-class xenophobia, child-rearing, number of sexes and global climate change. This is something that unites the elites, and what separates them from working classes people.
If we add to them the people who do not belong to these elites but who are eager to join, we have at least 100 million people. That’s how big the current ivory tower is.
Case Study: Big pharma
Take the pharmaceutical industry. An industry dominated by global colossi whose managers are only concerned with their bonuses. Morale is zero, sense of responsibility is zero. But alongside this, there are also predatory law firms – most of them also global. There is no question of any morality here either. Predatory lawyers live only by who can be sued and how much can be extracted. And besides, there are advertising and public relations agencies. Basically the same thing. We don’t even need to spread the word about TV stations and other big media.
The managers of all these organizations are members of the new aristocracy. They all have similar character traits. They all share the same contempt for the lower classes. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t fight each other.
For example, this is what happens when a predatory law firm challenges a corporation because a drug has actual or perceived hidden side effects. Billions are at stake. The rivals will go at each other mercilessly. Each side hires a firm to influence public opinion. There is a struggle between them. It can have different results:
For us as ordinary readers, it is important to be aware of two aspects.
First. The picture of reality that we are offered is the result of manipulation. Restraint is necessary. Those who want to form a real opinion should go to professional publications and try to dig through clinical studies. Even then, he will not have full certainty, but he may have some insight.
Secondly. Both sides of the argument go to the same restaurants and the same clubs. Maybe they’re dating and maybe they go on vacation to the same destinations. They have the same tastes and the same political views. Sometimes they even share an apartment and a bed. Or at least they meet at the same parties. Like top footballers from rival clubs. Of course, there are also transfers between the two sides. The lawyer who’s crushing the corporation may be a commercial director next year.
Rioux Contre roux
An equally structured picture will offer us a view of the Covid epidemic.
Restrictions on movement have incredibly boosted the profits of shipping companies, mail-order stores and other businesses tied to them. Online entertainment and other industries have grown as well. So it’s in their interest to prolong everything as much as possible.
But entertainment, tourism and other industries have been devastatingly affected by the same measures. This includes, for example, aircraft manufacturers and thousands of their suppliers. Boeing has reported its worst results in 50 years and has had to halt several development projects. Airbus is in a similar position.
So we have two groups of members of the new aristocracy whose interests are heading in opposite directions.
Similarly, we can see the struggle of the tobacco industry against the healthy lifestyle industry, or the struggle of the traditional energy industry against companies profiting from the fight against (perceived or real) global climate change.
In addition, there is fierce competition between firms operating in the same industry and equally fierce competition within firms. Generally, those who produce something are weaker than those who sell, negotiate and communicate, but occasionally we come across an exception.
The same is true in pharmacy. Some groups profit from vaccination and therefore promote it. But there are groups whose business is spoiled by vaccination because they sell fewer drugs, medical devices and equipment. And other groups sell vitamins and therefore promote prevention. Very often these are divisions of the same corporations. The vaccine manufacturers, in turn, compete with each other. Have you noticed how many articles there are in the press about the side effects of vaccines? And have you noticed that they almost exclusively warn against those who spoil the prize? Johnson’s vaccinations cost a tenth as much as Pfizer’s. Is that a coincidence? And is it a coincidence that the authorities crack down almost exclusively on cheap vaccines? The answer is that we may have various suspicions, but we won’t know the definitive answer.
But besides that, there is a clear trend. The richest continue to get richer. The wealth of this class is growing by tens of per cent a year. It grew before Covid, they grew during Covid and it will grow and continue to grow after Covid. Not because these people are more industrious, more useful or more creative than others. They get rich because conditions are set up so that wealth transfers from ordinary people to them. It does not matter whether it is called taxation, emission allowances or corporate profits. It is still a transfer of the same money from the pockets of the turners to the pockets of the top managers.
Under the elephants’ feet
A picture opens up before us of a far more complex world than central control, whether by a Davos, Bilderberg or another group. It is also more gloomy because there are no positive characters in it.
But those at the bottom may notice that sometimes the outcome of such a struggle is advantageous to them as well. It’s good to take advantage of that, but also to know that it’s temporary. That is what discussions should be about. They should be conducted rationally. Cries of “do you think the corporations mean well by us?” should not be taken as an argument. Of course, they don’t. But it does not follow that this or that strategy is better or worse. The same corporation sells me vitamins and vaccinations out of the same greed. The decision is mine.
But we can be sure that whatever the outcome, the new aristocracy as a whole will not lose out. Either they’ll make a profit on the vaccine or they’ll make a profit on the drugs and vitamins. Either on cigarettes or on banning them. Either on quarantine measures or their abolition. Either on titillating photos or gender censorship. But it must not be against the interests of the new aristocracy as a class. That’s why it is unacceptable to make money on border protection, stopping migration, supporting local business or even border security.
What would really damage them is a return to national economies and subsistence farming.
Petr Hampl, Ph.D. is a Czech sociologist and writer. He focuses mainly on class conflicts in contemporary Western societies, civilizational issues and alternative forms of human capital. He has lectured at Charles University in Prague and the Prague University of Economics and Management. He is the Executive Director of the Czech Society for Civilization Studies.
He is the author of three books and numerous articles in peer-reviewed publications. His books include Breached Enclosure: Why the West Is Being Defeated by Islam but Might Still Come Out Okay.