Today’s Wall St. Journal has an incredible article on the demise of the “WASP” – White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant – as the unchallenged ruling stratum in the US. They describe how in the past, it was this stratum that ruled the nation unchallenged. “WASPs were a caste, closed off to all not born within it, with the possible exception of those who crashed the barriers by marrying in,” they write. The article explains how this caste dominated public life in the US in the past. And of what did WASP culture consist? They quote author Richard Brookhiser approvingly: “success depending on industry; use giving industry its task; civic-mindedness placing obligations on success, and antisensuality setting limits to the enjoyment of it; conscience watching over everything.” The article continues: “Under WASP hegemony, corruption, scandal and incompetence in high places weren’t, as now, regular features of public life. Under WASP rule, stability, solidity, gravity and a certain weight and aura of seriousness suffused public life. “
They are talking about the days prior to WW II. Are they serious?
These were the days when “public servants” – the politicians – were openly bribed by the “captains of industry”, when the railroad barons hired gun thugs to defeat their rivals and unashamedly received thousands if not millions of acres of public land for free, when black people were lynched at will in the South, when…
Well, you get the picture.
The article bemoans the “meritocracy” that supposedly exists today, that is, people advance, especially rise into high government office, based on merit. The problem: “As a ruling class, today’s new meritocracy has failed to provide the positive qualities that older generations of WASPs provided…. What our new meritocrats have failed to evince—and what the older WASP generation prided itself on—is character and the ability to put the well-being of the nation before their own…. Trust, honor, character: The elements that have departed U.S. public life with the departure from prominence of WASP culture have not been taken up by the meritocrats.”
Ahh, for the good old days when the noble elite ruled over the rest of us with nothing but the interests of “the nation” at heart! Instead, today’s modern “meritocracy” has led us to a sorry state of affairs. Here is how the article portrays it: “Trust, honor, character: The elements that have departed U.S. public life with the departure from prominence of WASP culture have not been taken up by the meritocrats.” The article concludes: “The WASPs’ day is done. Such leadership as it provided isn’t likely to be revived. Recalling it at its best is a reminder that the meritocracy that has followed it marks something less than clear progress. Rather the reverse.”
In reality, what has changed is this: On the one hand, the risings of the working class in the ’30s and of women and black people in later years brought down the more blatant aspects of the American WASP nobility. They can no longer live in their private enclaves, reserving certain schools and areas of the country as well as political influence exclusivly for themselves. They have also been forced to admit non-WASPs into the ruling stratum, the elite of the US capitalist class. Meanwhile, the US capitalist class has undergone a change that reflects the change in US capitalism: We have seen the change from the domination of industrial capital to the domination of finance capital, the change from profit-making from actually producing something to profit-making from mere speculation.
It is a degeneration of capitalism and the class that rules this system.