In response to this Richard Kline comment at NC:
If neither the progressive community in the USA nor the radical community here were ever large enough to achieve even plurality political power, how did any socially advancing policy ever become enacted into law and institutional arrangement? The centrist bourgeois got behind it, or let it go by on a trade off, that’s how. The present stagnation of the centrist bourgeois in the US makes this impossible at present, and for the foreseeable future. This is the main problem for social change in the US in my view (as the latter has developed): the fulcrum has gone spongy. Even if the missing ‘radical force’ was active, there is no ‘multiplier’ for it.
Centrist bourgeois in American history have _never_ been predisposed to confront the state. They want to make money off the state, and often ARE the state at its margins. The Centrist bourgeois have seldom been inclined to confront the wealthy, being far more disposed to hang at the heel of the wealthy and hope for a good job when noticed. This orientations has typically worked for the bourgeois when the economy was, in various ways, expanding, as it has for most of American history. There was always a little more to go around, and being upstream of the poor and rural subsistence farmers, the bourgeois could typically get a plateful of expansion every time around. Bourgeois America does have a strong view of its own legal standing, and will push back against the wealthy if they perceive themselves to be abused. ‘Sharing the wealth’ was usually a pragmatic accommodation to economic and social grievances, however, rather than something done from any conviction. The industrial wealthy in the USA have a history of extreme abuses which are easy to document, and pragmatically setting them back a notch, pragmatically buying off militant dissidents with a few, basic concessions together served as the path of least resistance for the bourgeois. It is not remembered in historically illiterate America that in England and, yes, the USA there have been civil wars over how the wealth was to be shared and who got to run the state. Bourgeois America has been conditioned to shun confrontation in favor of modest, tactical concessions. So long as the pie kept expanding.
I don't know what "Centrist Bourgeois" means. I don't think it means "owners," because "wealthy" describes the Walmarts and Buffets of this world, no?
I think it means people with "bourgeois values," and that they are Centrist with respect to the Overton Window. You say they live off the state, so I think they take a percentage of the rental extraction streams owned by others.
I prefer to try to think about classes functionally, so I'm guessing you're classifying the same people I would classify this way (with the caveat that people can belong to more than one class; that is, they can have multiple income streams).
* Creative class: Programmers, designers, techies, PR people, academics ... Key part of Obama's base. ObamaCare is, among other things, welfare for them.
* Political class: Strategists, opinion shapers, "thought collectives, pollsters, trolls ...
* National security class: People designing and maintaining the self-licking ice cream cone of the national security state; anybody with a clearance. Military brass, spooks, hasbara types....
Snowden, for example, is in the Creative class (sysadmin) and the National Security class (clearance).
Colin Powell rose through the National security class and the political class to the ruling class... And thence to well-deserved but lucrative obscurity....
People can fall out of these classes into the working class at any time; or they can rise to the ruling class or the ownership class.
I don't hold any particular brief for these particular slices, but I do think we should have classification systems that are functional (describe political economy role played by class), adaptive (take account of how class functions change over time), and allow overlap (person can put together income streams as a member of more than one class -- as along as they're not working class!) Note that generational classification (Boomers, Gen X) is not functional or adaptive and does not allow overlap. The same goes for classes derived from identity politics. "Middle class" is a powerful distraction* because it's a static ideal** and isn't functional ("middle" of what?)
Anyhow, off the top of my head and based on lots of blogging. More serious analysis welcome.
NOTE * That I also hate because of its implicit "suck up, kick down" morality.
NOTE ** A good definition I heard is that the essence of being middle class is being able to "provide" for one's children, in the sense of educating them for a better life, and passing along an inheritance of some sort, usually a house. There's also the idea of being able to retire in something other than squalor.
NOTE This sketch is based on Braudel's idea of society as "a set of sets."
UPDATE "Downward mobility" means falling out of the political, creative, or national security classes into the working class. Nice litmus test for that: It doesn't matter who you are.
UPDATE I've left out small business owners delivering tangible services, like plumbers and electricans, and "skilled labor," mostly unionized. It's a big, complicated country....