As I prepare to guide my advanced courses through a discussion on race, class, and gender, I often without effort think about the important contribution of Marx and Marxist’s literature. I will admit that at times, even for me, it is difficult to determine who truly belongs to the proletariat or with the bourgeoisie. W.E.B. Du Bois called for a vanguard of black intellectuals to serve as the talented tenth; it was his hope that this academic elite group would educate the masses and transform the racial plight of society. However, when I think I am confused about the importance of looking at historical forces that have shaped modern day conflicts, I am reminded by conservative economist Thomas Sowell that the true bourgeois elite, not the academic elite fighting and teaching for and about social justice, are still exploiting an existing proletariat. Regardless of education and income, I will always be a proletarian. Note what Sowell said about class below:
The almost universal disdain toward the middle class — the bourgeoisie — by those with cosmic visions can be more readily understood in light of the role of such visions as personal gratification and personal license. The middle classes have been classically people of rules, traditions, and self-discipline, to a far greater extent than the underclass below them or the wealthy and aristocratic classes above them. While the underclass pay the price of not having the self-discipline of the bourgeoisie — in many ways, ranging from poverty to imprisonment — the truly wealthy and powerful can often disregard the rules, including laws, without paying the consequences. Those with cosmic visions that seek escape from social constraints regarded as arbitrary, rather than inherent, tend to romanticize the unruliness of the underclass and the sense of being above the rules found among the elite.
Thomas Sowell, The Quest for Cosmic Justice [The Free Press, 1999], pp. 139-140
As an intellectual construct, Capital was a masterpiece; but, like some other intellectual masterpieces, it was an elaborately sophisticated structure erected on the foundation of a primitive misconception. …In the realm of ideas in general, the Marxian vision — including his theory of history — has not only dominated various fields at various times, it has survived both the continuing prosperity of capitalism and the economic debacles of socialism. It has become axiomatic among sections of the intelligentsia, impervious to the corrosive effects of evidence or logic. But what did Marx contribute to economics? Contributions depend not only on what was offered but also on what was accepted, and there is no major premise, doctrine, or tool of analysis in economics today that derived from the writings of Karl Marx. There is no need to deny that Marx was in many ways a major historic figure of the nineteenth century, whose long shadow still falls across the world of the twenty-first century. Yet, jarring as the phrase may be, from the standpoint of the economics profession Marx was, as Professor Paul Samuelson called him, “a minor post-Ricardian.”
Thomas Sowell, On Classical Economics [Yale, 2006] p.184-186