The facts which need to be emphasized about the white collar class (containing, as has been noted, representatives of several of the social classes) are: (1) the way in which salaries are undercut by the open competition for positions, (2) the lack of organization with which to restrict the labor market and help squeeze out part of the profits of capitalism and imperialism, (3) the cost which respectability puts on persons struggling to live up to the level of conventionality, their frequent childlessness, and even the inadequacy of their diet, (4) the false sense of social importance based on contact with persons of socially higher rank, and (5) the tendency for companies to employ presentable young men, which has serious implications for these same young men ten years later.Next Page
When Soll und Haben was written the typical clerical worker was, even if in a rut, a part of the "firm's family." That was just after the middle of the last century. "For generations the salaried employees were not only in the middle class but were also well paid . . . economically secure and socially respected." 34 As a consequence of their growth in numbers, and the factors mentioned above, they have been in part practically proletarianized.
In writing of the white collared employees, Geiger, who struggled conscientiously with definitions, says that, these categories (civil servants and salaried employees), taken alone, "are not a class . . . but in our bureaucratically burdened German world, they are almost a caste." 35 (He means here a series of hereditary occupations.)
Another type and kind of middle class member was the yeoman. In England, according to the experience of Crawley as described by Gras, the nineteenth century saw the yeoman type grow gradually during the first half of the century, only to fall into utter helplessness, bankruptcy, and flight before the first World War. Gras describes the downward trend of the solid yeomanry thus: 36
This is the end of the yeomen of the village of Crawley! How are we to explain their going? Locally it is said that the yeoman families died out. That is in a sense true, but in another sense it is not. The families did not die out -- only that part remaining in the village died out. Had the family occupations and estates been prosperous and promising, the families would probably have supplied representatives to continue the business of farming . . . . Farmers were obliged, it was said, to mortgage their holdings and were never able to pay off the mortgage. This is at least suggestive of the truth . . . . What they could not do was compete with American wheat and Australian wool and mutton. From about 1879 to perhaps 1914 was a trying time for Crawley's agriculture . . . . Those Crawley cottagers who had gone to America and to Australia were wreaking vengeance on the yeoman farmers who had taken the holdings of their families.
Thus another trend in the nineteenth century, as in the roaring twenties of this century in the United States, pointed downward for a large section of the middle class -- the independent farmer. A part of the dislocation was caused by the sudden growth of cities, with the corresponding prosperity that drew many sons from the farms into the cities. Only in parts of France and Germany was the temptation to "sell out and go to town" resisted with the tough steel nerves of peasant stubbornness.
The squeezing out of the yeoman stock in Crawley (and "the conditions of Crawley is not peculiar") has serious implications. Gras says that those remaining "lack ambition, vigor, initiative, zest, and promise." 37 Worse yet, he states that "to build up some of the old yeoman qualities would be an even finer evolved feat than building up fertility on a barren upland, "which is a thought worth pondering. Whether one likes it or not, feudalism did produce the yeoman, and the modern age of world trade, in this case, laid him low.
34. Eduard Heimann, "Sozialismus und Mittelstand," Sonderdruck aus Neue Blaetter für den Sozialismus (Berlin, 1932) p. 7; translation ours.
35. Theodor Geiger, Die Soziale Schichtung des Deutschen Volkes (Stuttgart, 1932) p. 98.
36. Norman Scott and Ethel Culbert Gras, The Economic and Social History of an English Village (Crawley, Hampshire) A.D. 909 - 1928 (Cambridge, Mass., 1930) p. 126.
37. Ibid., p. 139.