Radicalizing the Professional-Managerial Class

Tech Insider
8 min readFeb 6, 2020


Class Contradictions

After the Great Recession of 2008, underlying class conflicts in American society, ever-present like a dormant volcano, exploded on the political life of the country. The words ‘billionaires,’ ‘wealth and income inequality,’ and ‘strikes’ started to become more common. Freshly agitated communities began taking action. And today, the number of strikes has been the highest since the 1980s.

From Occupy Wall Street to the rise of Bernie Sanders to national prominence as a champion of the working class in 2015, American politics has once again been jolted into an arena of battle and reconciliation between the ruling class and workers. The intrinsic contradictions of capitalism, exposed once again.

However, the attack on another economic class has escaped scrutiny. Perhaps it is because no one has underestimated this attack more than the target class itself— lulled into cursory yet soothing material comfort by their rulers. This is the professional-managerial class (PMC), the managers of the affairs of the ruling elite.

The Second Class War

Much has been written about this class, also aptly dissected by historian Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal. The PMC executes the orders of the owners of society — running corporations, making investments, executing industrial programs, writing policy, negotiating trade deals, deploying weapons, researching, implementing oil extraction projects, reporting news, organizing media production schedules, planning finances for health insurance companies, executing state policy by managing coups, and of course, keeping the workers in line, among many other matters — all in a day’s work.

While either purposefully or obliviously executing on the aforementioned first class battle between the ruling and the working class, the PMC has become the subject of a second class war by the ruling elite as well. And while it certainly seems that the subject isn’t fully aware of it, some signs portend an awakening.

The ruling class gives orders, the working class follows them, and the PMC does both. Expanding slowly but surely is the understanding of this class conflict within the PMC as well. If correctly understood and harnessed, left-wing movements and coalitions may find allies within these ranks through overlapping interests during this late hour of global capitalism.

Engineering Dormancy

The factors that normally extinguish any class consciousness within the PMC and maintain tranquility are quite straightforward:


Those who rise up the ranks are ‘well-adjusted,’ specialized and indoctrinated into the ways of industry and capital. As the Trilateral Commission, from which the Carter administration was largely drawn, put it in 1975, “education is a system of indoctrination of the young.” As covered before, between using education to generate obedience or freeing from the tyranny of the present, capital and prevalent power systems prefer the former. Those that excel in such an academic format are those who conform well and follow instructions diligently. Those who do not are rejected by the labor markets.

Of course, creativity of thought is important— but only within the bounds of further boosting the class interests of the ruling elite. Innovations to increase more profits, scientific breakthroughs with applications that investors will like, financial engineering to boost market value. Creative routine.


Major media companies in the U.S are first and foremost, private corporations. These companies generate and distribute news, and exist for the primary purpose of generating profits. Six corporations owned 90% of all media distribution in the country as of 2012, down from 50 companies in 1983.

As covered before, the narrow range of debate and information that the PMC mainly subscribes to further maintains discipline of thought, perpetuating secular religions like free markets, American exceptionalism, humanitarian foreign policy and so on.

Workplace Propaganda

Employers work hard to maintain PMC satisfaction and sense of purpose. Just as all politics are moral as explained by cognitive linguist George Lakoff, all economic activity is for the betterment of the world. If it is profitable, it is somehow doing something good in the world.

Speculating against the currency of a country collapsing due to US sanctions? It is simply rebalancing the world currency markets for everyone’s sake. That it is lucrative is simply a coincidence.

Recklessly profiteering off of fossil fuels during an ongoing climate catastrophe? It helps power the world and makes the Earth spin. That it is lucrative is simply a coincidence.

Privatizing public technologies and syphoning wealth of the commons in the smartphone market, violating privacy, exploiting global resources, dodging taxes? It is connecting people and making the world a better place. That it is lucrative is simply a coincidence.

And so on.

Workplaces are routinely bombarded with “emotionally potent oversimplifications.” For instance, tech bosses hold all-hands meetings to spout lofty ideals about the wonders of their work — erasing externalities, societal consequences and of course, where the wealth created by the work is going. When the room clears, the same bosses monitor the employees’ devices, screens, emails and on-site activities to understand sentiments and manage them.

Finance heads take a different approach. Instilling a competitive, cut-throat environment for various sales/brokerage targets, the PMC here is given purpose and kept in line through the relentless pursuit of wealth, or as Adam Smith put it, “the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.” The occasional weekend on the boss’s yacht gives ideas about what to do with the wealth once extracted.

Material Comfort

Material benefits are the most obvious reason. Intrinsic to belonging to this economic class is the ability to live a comfortable life.

Opposing Forces

Yet, despite these strong forces bending behavior one way, other forces are opening up the possibility of a PMC awakening. Partially sprung from the increasing gap between the ruling class and everyone else, these forces are influencing the sensibilities of the PMC in three main ways:


While the accelerating divergence in wealth and life expectancy between the top and bottom doesn’t get as much attention as it should, there has been a growing awareness of the abomination. However, neglected is the growing gap between the top 0.1%, 1% and 10%.

Cumulative % change in Real Annual Wages, 1979–2017

Meanwhile, as the national development of elite enclaves in rich cities continues, where the owners, their capital and their managers retreat, the cost of ownership of homes has increased. Tuition for children continues to increase against income, including elite schools. Relative to income, the cost of elite membership continues to grow, and the prospects simply do not match those who got their start during the Reagan years — the beginning of neoliberal upheaval.

In all disciplines, from banking, hedge funds, law, and even high tech, the largest trampoline today for the young, aspiring PMC hoping to sniff the air of Mount Olympus one day, it is becoming increasingly clear that wages, bonuses and returns are crumbs compared to the astronomical wealth increases of the owners. The top 1% owns as much wealth as the bottom 90%, the latter reduced by large amounts of debt.


The second force that is slowly chipping away at years of PMC training is questions about the system within which they operate and the legitimacy of the meritocracy. Witnessing huge upward transfers of wealth during bank bailouts, tax breaks that pass 83% of the benefits to the top 1%, watching Adam Neumann of WeWork fail his way to billions, Elon Musk committing securities fraud and then violating settlement terms without any consequences, all have a degree of effect on the PMC. Indeed some are encouraged to replicate these exploits, but some may begin to question the story of the capitalist catapult. For those even casually observing business and political affairs, intellectual dissonance is in order.

Further, reckless and misplaced use of our technologies again creates discontentments about who has the decision-making power and resources to wield these technologies for global deployments.

Activist investors attempting to impart some reason in the markets routinely get burnt by the irrational exuberance generated by those who control the megaphones; drowning out the squeaks of protest. When the inevitable collapse comes, the few make out like bandits, leaving large parts of the PMC out to dry, along with the decimation of the rest of the population.


The inability of the economic and political system to acknowledge well-researched, active phenomena like climate breakdown further challenges the legitimacy of the ruling class. As I covered in Anthropogenic Climate Change: The Size of Our Solutions Does Not Match the Size of Our Problems,

Thoughtless hyper-industrialization, renegade waste of energy and resources for profits combined with an oligarchic political system have yielded the perfect storm, wherein the systems responsible for creating the problems are never challenged. While the engines that created the conditions for climate breakdown continue unabated, the same engines prohibit any decent evaluation of the core problems and possible solutions.The private media is virtually silent on the emergency. Schools continue to thump the theology of markets and indefinite ‘growth,’ while industry continues to propel corporate expansion for higher profits, producing greater waste and pollution.

To the extent some members of the PMC can defy the soothing effect of material comfort and convenience, there is an emerging sense within this class that it is morally reprehensible to not only tolerate a destructive anthropogenic phenomenon of global scale, but accelerate it in the name of ‘development’, ‘growth’, ‘prosperity’, or ‘jobs’ or whatever the word of the day is to replace the word ‘profit’ in press briefings.

All these radicalizing forces pull against the opposing forces of material, intellectual and moral comfort — provided by education, media, and the bosses. The nectar of these rewards can be so sweet, and the bitter truths sufficiently spaced out, that it doesn’t create the conditions for the class to earnestly challenge power.

Regardless, the upper-class radical remains elusive, but potent.

The Radicalization Project

The central claim here isn’t that there is an awakening that defies centuries of socialist theory about class. Instead, at this stage of extreme wealth and income inequality, environmental degradation that the wealthy prepare for by purchasing luxurious doomsday bunkers, the fate of the PMC is becoming tied to the working class.

Elizabeth Warren has attracted members of the PMC who want technocratic solutions to these systemic problems. Sure, her analysis of the problems and hence, the solution space are severely deficient. Nevertheless, the desire amongst the affluent, highly educated PMC for “big, structural change” through economic reforms is undeniable.

Influx of the PMC in Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) meetings is another sign of this class’s availability to be engaged by the multi-racial, multi-cultural left movements and coalitions in a cogent and strategic manner. Members of the left and class defectors alike must take up the PMC project. It is not a small feat. But the potential payoffs are tremendous.

It is tempting to think that as economic conditions deteriorate further, the PMC will invariably break. This is not an acceptable tactic, as it is not a tactic at all. During this deterioration, millions of working class allies and the poor would be decimated, as they already have. Further, the goal of the project is to ultimately begin dissolving these class boundaries — through not just economic reconfiguration, but a cultural and a spiritual one as well. The defection will drive further defection, creating the conditions for mutual aid instead of mutual struggle, and social reconstruction.

One can rightly ask why go through all this trouble. Why not abandon the PMC and consider it in alliance with the rulers, as they are. We surely could.

I personally think it would be a strategic mistake, ignoring increasingly fertile ground for revolution. The PMC remains a central repository of ruling class legitimacy and preponderance. If it swings, it’s game over.

Questions or Comments? Please reach out at exiledconsensus@gmail.com. Follow on Twitter @ConsensusExiled.



Tech Insider

Writing about politics, philosophy, technology and current affairs. Questioning ideologies of power and discussing alternatives. Twitter: @ap_prose