The Chronic Patterns of Classism

As we try to Co-Counsel with each other well across our class divisions, we are detecting certain common chronic patterns attached to members of the same class.


The chronic patterns of working-class RCers that make it difficult to encourage them into leadership are likely to be lack of confidence, feeling “dumb” or unintelligent, and feeling that “it’s no use to struggle,” that “one can never win.” Other common working-class feelings are “If I take leadership, all my friends will think I am being too good for them and won’t support me anymore” and that one must copy the speech, mannerisms, accent, and clothing of middle-class people or owning-class people in order to be taken seriously.

Chronic patterns of working-class people that interfere with their taking responsible leadership can include grievancing as a substitute for action, and “comforting” oneself with food or alcohol or preoccupation with sports, on or off TV.


Some of the chronic patterns that commonly tend to keep middle-class people from assuming responsible leadership include strong feelings that one must fit into, be approved by, and support the oppressive society as “the only world one has ever known.” Others are a fearful need for approval and pats-on-the-head from the “powers that be,” a passionate (fearful) belief in reform rather than fundamental change, and the “liberal” attitude that “one can never be sure that one is right.”

The chronic patterns that make leadership difficult for middle-class people once they’ve assumed it include self-doubt, a fearful need for conformity, and assumptions about the “eternal verity” of the system in which one is functioning.


Owning-class people’s chronic patterns that keep them from assuming rational leadership include patterns of laziness and self-indulgence, the conditioned belief that they must enjoy themselves at all costs, irresponsibility, and the feelings that they do not dare “become visible” lest they meet reprisals. There is also a factor that they rarely admit to themselves and never acknowledge to others: that deep down they don’t believe in themselves.

Some of the patterns that tend to limit their leadership are unfaced commitments to the present oppressive system and a difficulty in conceiving that they can be accepted as allies by the working and middle classes because of the resentment that they assume the members of these classes feel toward them.

Harvey Jackins

excerpted from A Better World, pages 288 to 291

(Present Time 185, October 2016)

Last modified: 2017-04-06 23:14:17+00