The concept of "High + Low vs the Middle" talks about a power struggle dynamic between 3 major groups in a society: Those who are in the "high" class (Elites), the "low" class, and the "middle" class. Political power is manipulated and influenced by those in the high class by utilizing the strife of the low class to promote their agenda. They often will make alliances with the lower class and promise them benefits, whether or not that has anything to do with their actual purposes (most often they don't and most often their actual purpose is to maintain or advance their power position.)
Steel-manning the Idea
- The Elites and the low classes both benefit in weakening the middle class.
- Elites use the lower class to maintain their power and influence.
- They already have both power and significant resources.
- Power tends to concentrate at the high-end of a society, creating a hierarchical structure where elites hold much of the available authority.
- This process tends to continue, ultimately resulting in oppressive authority.
- This includes the key areas of: political power, economic control, and social influence.
- They lack the numbers to legitimize their control of those areas.
- Typically they gain the support of the lower class by offering benefits to them, at the expense of the middle class, but with no (or very little) real cost to their own class.
- The low class gain benefits directly through the agendas of the higher class, while also benefitting indirectly through the weakening of the middle class, making seem easier for them to rise in the class structure (though this is often a fairy tale.)
- The low class generally have numbers and visible plight
- This includes more than just the economically disadvantaged, often including other marginal groups
- They lack any significant power or resources on their own
- They are especially susceptible to manipulation by elites and subject to their exertion of power.
- Their support of the elites legitimizes their rule
- The middle class is the target of both because they have a combination of some power along with significant numbers.
- The middle class possesses economic stability and social mobility.
- This stability and mobility gives the middle class independence from the higher (elite) class, allowing them to resist influence by the Elites.
- If the middle class were to organize against the Elites, they could pose serious threat to their stranglehold on power.
- The middle class gets pressure from both sides, making it difficult for them to organize
- The middle class is a critical and stabilizing force for a society, preventing too much centralization of power in the hands of elites.
Straw-manning the Idea
While this dynamic is clearly evident in every political sphere in the West, the criticisms offered include:
- Oversimplification of Power Dynamics: Critics argue that the High-Low vs Middle Dynamic oversimplifies the complex nature of power dynamics within societies.
- Lack of Attention to Structural Inequalities: Some critics argue that the High-Low vs Middle Dynamic does not sufficiently address the structural factors that perpetuate inequalities.
- Potential for Middle-class Class Bias: The concept of the middle class in the High-Low vs Middle Dynamic has been criticized for assuming a homogeneity within this group and neglecting the diversity of experiences and interests. Critics argue that the middle class may have varying levels of privilege and may not always act as a moderating force.
In these cases, it is easy to see that those who currently hold power would forward these types of criticisms towards a concept that unmasks one of the key ways they hold power
Major Thinkers and Works
- Bertrand DeJouvenel -On Power: Its Nature and the History of Its Growth
- "The collective exists only as a collection of individuals" - Bertrand De Jouvenel
- "Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship." - Bertrand De Jouvenel