Greetings, friends.

I will preface this question with a statement of my own ignorance.  My formal education was in the field of graphic design and my independent study is primarily centered around music history and the sociological impact of music on global culture.  As such I have not explored economics or social classism and have little knowledge of economic history or contemporary trends.

However, recently I have been considering my place in the socio-economic system (especially as I've been reading classic dystopian novels) and am puzzled as I cannot find a name for what is surely a rapidly growing party in the global society.

It would appear that the modern era has seen the rise of an intellectual class that is neither proletariat nor bourgeoisie.  

The internet has begun to level the educational playing field and as information is readily available to all first-world social classes, rich and poor.  Whereas the wealth of knowledge was previously limited to university students, book shop junkies and tinkerers (HAM radio enthusiast and the like), the age of Google Books, the Wikipedia, and other instantly-accessible public domains of information have made this a golden era for those in pursuit of knowledge who may not otherwise be men of means.

Allow me to characterize the growing class that I perceive.

These are men and women who place a great value on learning.  Many would be considered autodidacts.  

Members of this group span a wide gamut of the financial classes, earning a household income  ranging between the poverty line and 40k per year.  (I've known brilliant men working on their Masters degree while subsisting on food stamps and SSI and other, equally intelligent individuals working as university professors and lawyers.)

But perhaps most importantly, these men earn their wage by using their minds instead of their physical labor.

Equally important is their position in the consumer population.  These men and women are educated consumers.  They carefully research products, study their sales history, and make the majority of their purchases on the Web for twenty-five to thirty percent of the price that an average consumer would pay in a the common, brick-and-mortar retail environment.  

And as expected, these individuals commonly associate themselves with progressive political affiliations, whether it be the far Left, registered Independent, or groups like the Pirate Party.

They value individualism, identity of the Self, and likewise support independently-owned local businesses instead of big-box corporations.

As such they are barely a blip on the consumer grid.  Most seldom purchase anything new, instead electing to invest in quality antiques or used goods whether for reasons of superior craftsmanship, style, or environmental impact over that of their plastic, 99 cent counterparts.

They also network with one another locally, bartering goods and services from other like-minded individuals with their own valuable skill sets.

So who are these able-minded lovers of learning?  They are not simply the 20-30somethings of the latest generation.  There is far too much apathy and ignorance in any generation of peoples to attribute these characteristics to an entire body of Gen-X's or Millenials.

And let me reiterate that this question is clearly asked from a position of ignorance.  I simply ask that you, the community, enlighten me?

Thank you.

Views: 195

Tags: anti-authoritarianism, classism, consumerism, individualism, progressive, social

Comment by kris feenstra on July 26, 2013 at 2:33pm

"So who are these able-minded lovers of learning?"

Used to be that every other person I knew was an anthropologist or sociologist of some sort, but these days my resources are probably the same as yours. I don't know if there is an existing model for what you are describing, but given your criteria, I think you'd need to reevaluate all classes in the system from older models. You would possibly end up with a classification with multiple component definitions. For a rough example, education, economic status and consumer habits would all be separate categories with distinct values.

I do get that the people you are describing do seem to bleed outside economic status as a defining characteristic, but realistically, in the context of society at large, I don't think you can escape its influence.

Comment by Doug Reardon on July 26, 2013 at 2:53pm

When asked to use the word "horticulture" in a sentence Dorothy Parker replied:  "You can lead a horticulture but you can't make her think." 

Comment by innerspaceboy on July 26, 2013 at 5:25pm
Here is a response from my friend, Joshua:


I have always argued that there are three classes.
Owners, who are the aristocracy once successful and the entrepreneurs at the start. Small business owners fall into this category. Useful, but kind of bossy and think the world is theirs to manipulate. They tend to work 60-80 hour weeks.

Workers, who like to be directed. They just want a job that earns them enough to live and tend to live for the weekend.

And the Scholarly Class. Thinkers and artists. But, they are not new. In medieval Europe they were the priests and artists and once the universities became secular they became the academics. There has always been those who could not make their way in the academic world because of funds or circumstances. In today's world of almost compulsory college many of the old dreamers are learning how to try and make their dreams a reality. I think this is the group you are discussing. I would call them neo-intellectuals.

As a follow up thought... The world runs on power. Once it was just the school yard bully who dominated a town then a region and became a Lord. With the advent of full fledged Capitalism it was the Merchant who moved into the Lord position as the owner or manager of the business instead of the Manor. Now, the West is moving through this Post Structuralist period. The group who seems to be coming out on top here is this Intellectual type. Once society reshapes its self we will see. But I predict we are watching this change occur right in front of us.
Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on July 26, 2013 at 6:25pm

Yes the world runs on power which is derived from information. For centuries knowledge or rather access to knowledge was closely guarded by those that already held power.  The Church was often in charge of education and access to Universities. Thanks to the Internet its power is rapidly declining as information and knowledge is more accessible to many more people. This video is a little off topic but might be of interest.

Comment by innerspaceboy on July 26, 2013 at 11:36pm

Thanks, Belle.  Just finished watching it, and then watched the 60 seconds in Economics series from the BBC homepage (which I was delighted to see was narrated by David Mitchell.)

Comment by Melvinotis on July 27, 2013 at 10:30am
ISB, I think you are spot on, marketing organizations have probably identified this segment.

It is definitely a growing segment. Segments like you describe drive the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) industry. They also unwittingly drive the faux product review industry (people who are paid to write positive reviews for products--sometimes negative reviews for competitor's products as well).

You are right though, they need a name. How about Splinters--named after the rat character in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He is an intelligent scavenger, and is also thrifty yet learned.
Comment by M.M. on July 27, 2013 at 12:31pm

Mitchell and Webb rock. Love Peep Show!

Comment by innerspaceboy on July 27, 2013 at 12:55pm
Also loved him on QI and his "Dear America" message on behalf of her Majesty the Queen on Youtube.
Comment by Strega on July 27, 2013 at 12:59pm

hahaha InnerSpaceBoy, that is a fantastic youtube video - here's the link!

Comment by innerspaceboy on July 27, 2013 at 1:03pm

Melvinotis, I would lean more toward calling them "Sixes," after Number 6 from the 1967 BBC series, The Prisoner.  His character embodies every one of the characteristics I described above.  And it's just hipster-obscuro and retro-gen enough to make them crack a smile.

"I am not a number... I am a free man!"

And thanks for the video link Strega!

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