1. TyrannusRex

    TyrannusRex Active Member

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    Resolving Differences in Socio-Economic Class

    Discussion in 'Research' started by TyrannusRex, Apr 16, 2017.

    (Note: You may have seen another post of mine talking about the same society I bring up here. It's useful foreknowledge, but it's not required to help out here.)
    So, in one tale I'm planning out, a society, post-apocalypse, is being restored. A more adept group of people (an order, like a secret society (not that kind, either)) is acting as the leaders of a larger group of survivors, sort of the proletarians who've barely been scraping by.
    Now, they both have/do things that the other needs. The higher-ups need the goods and services provided by the lower class, and the lower class needs stable leadership and better protection from their common enemy (which caused this apocalypse), but that doesn't mean that everyone gets along perfectly.

    One character, who's higher-up, gets a little condescending and almost comes to blows with someone from the lower class. At the climax of the argument, the poorer man says "We're not your slaves, you know!" and his adversary raises a hand to strike him, saying "You could be!" Fortunately, someone is able to intervene and calm them both before a fight breaks out.

    So I guess what I'm saying is, now that I've tried to explain the situation, how might the two classes try and reconcile their differences and keep themselves in check? I mean, they do have a common threat to unite against, but when tempers flare, especially in a group of survivors, nothing is guaranteed.
     
  2. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I'm fairly puzzled by this. It suggests that the workmen are all incapable of leadership, and I have trouble with that concept. On the other side, I'm not clear on what sort of protection the leadership can provide?
     
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  3. Malisky

    Malisky Sirocco Contributor

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    I do not think they would reconcile truly. A truce (between upper and lower class) in times of eminent threat is another thing. No one likes to be the underdog. Tables could turn pretty easily. See for instance what happened at the French Revolution. Nobody really expected that back then. Who cares about war when you are already dying from the cold and hunger? So I guess that it depends upon the lower class's survival conditions and the difference (between survival conditions) with the upper class.
     
  4. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    Take a look at how socio-economic classes, treat each other in the real world.
    We treat those on the bottom as if they are barely human, and the further up
    the ladder you get, the better life is. The rich and super rich see the poor as
    inferior in every way. While the other classes hope to never end up as the poor
    do.

    So it is not entirely impossible for your two characters to come to blows, it they
    are entangled in a heated discussion. There is a truce of sorts between the poor
    and everyone else, because the law will always side with the upper-class person.
    So unless their is another reason that is putting pressure on all three tiers of the
    middle class that also affects the poor, then they would leave each other alone.
    That is how our society functions. The poor remind the middle classes that they
    too can fall down the social ladder at any time. But they always regard them
    as the lowest of the low, because it makes them feel better about their status.
    To have them work together, there needs to exist a bridge between them.
    Other wise they would not bother with finding any common ground what so
    ever. Our society frowns upon the less fortunate, and praises the other classes.

    You can't have one without the other.

    In India you would be lucky to marry up a caste from your current one, but
    that is something that does not happen often. I am sure it is the same here
    in the western world as well. No one ever willingly moves down the social ladder.
     
  5. TyrannusRex

    TyrannusRex Active Member

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    I apologize, I was rather vague on story detail.
    1) The living conditions of these two classes are the same: pretty crappy. They have to share resources and all that jazz.
    2) The lower classes did have leaders, but they were basically tribal and constantly clashed with each other. When this higher order tries to reestablish its power, they realize they're better off united under a stable, wiser body.
    3) In the interest of full disclosure, this is a story with magic in it. The "threat" is essentially a dark army/horde, and this higher class (this "Order") are able to use magic to combat the darkness; the "survivors" cannot. They've been fighting the horde (and each other) with shoddy, makeshift weapons, and failing at it. So, they align themselves under the higher class in the interest of safety and mutual survival. The higher class, meanwhile, needs to hold true on its promise to run a fair and just society after peace is restored.
    I don't feel like that was much, but I was having trouble putting it into words. Hope that helps.
     
  6. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Just FYI, as a reader this wouldn't work for me. How often does an entire culture voluntarily say, "We are like foolish children. We don't deserve freedom or self-rule. We will accept the rule of these superior people." I don't accept that the lower classes are inherently stupid and incapable of leadership, unless they are actually a fundamentally different species, like dogs and humans. And even if they are different species, I really don't accept that the "lower" species would accept that idea.

    I'm not the boss of your book. :) But I think that a lot of your readers are likely to be people who believe in democracy and human equality, and I think that this premise, of voluntary servitude, flies in the face of those ideas. If you want those two classes, I think that they're going to have to come into being in some other way, such as the upper conquering the lower.
     
  7. ajaye

    ajaye Senior Member

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    I think the magic held by the 'higher' class is the key here. I can accept the magic wielders hold the power in your society, but I can't help but bridle at the inference that higher class = wiser.
     
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  8. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    Yeah, this higher class would have to offer the proles something more than wisdom and paternalism. I could see if they had all the food and clean water and whatnot. Or maybe some kind of evangelical spirituality? I don't think a "You're incapable of governing yourselves" premise is very compelling.
     
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  9. TyrannusRex

    TyrannusRex Active Member

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    :bigmeh:
    You see, I'm trying to devise some reason for them to work together instead of strengthening the divide that exists.
    I'm not really sure what reason they would have, other than both parties are interested in reestablishing some inkling of the society that was torn apart.
    What's more ironic is that the leading class is small, they come out of hiding, wander into the ruined town, and find the proles, who have supplies but can't really defend them. The proles, however, remember the legends of this Order, and know that they can do a far better job (essentially) of killing monsters, since they've got magic and fighting experience. They can train the proles to fight better (which would put them in a default position of respect (perhaps rather than leadership), like a teacher), and the proles will share what they have in terms of shelter, food, and human interaction (these higher-ups have been on their own for quite some time, not knowing any other humans survived).
    Maybe the level of back-scratching isn't quite so even here, but that's about all I could fathom in terms of in-universe reasoning.
    In real life, I think it depends more on the individual person and how much they want to be led, which could explain the near-fight earlier. Not everyone in a given society will bow down to new leadership so readily.
     
  10. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    2016 just happened. I don't think welcoming subservience is the sort of story people want to hear right now.
     
  11. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I still find it unrealistic. If they want fighters and knowledge, it seems reasonable that they'd voluntarily provide them with lodging and food, but lodging and food and obedience is a very different thing. Even if they're getting training and advice from the magicy-types, obedience is a stretch.

    Are you sure that isn't the conflict worth writing about? The magicy types think that they should be in charge, and they're not? The upper class is dealing with the very unaccustomed situation of being, in terms of power and authority, the lower class? It's a magic user who gives the "we're not your slaves" line and an ordinary citizen who gives the "you could be!" line?

    I would find that far, far more interesting, and more plausible.

    I'm also a bit concerned about the word "proles". You as the author seem to have some contempt for your fictional lower classes.
     
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  12. Robert Musil

    Robert Musil Contributor Contributor

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    I mean--do they need to be completely reconciled? I mean are socio-economic classes in real life ever reconciled? The answer is really sometimes yes, sometimes no, for certain people, to a certain extent.

    The discussion in this thread sort of demonstrates what I'm talking about--you say that the adept class really is providing something of value that the masses can't do without, and that their assuming leadership is essentially a fair trade. Others have disagreed. But that's always going to be a matter of interpretation, since everyone will have a different idea of what's "fair" in a given situation. Different people within the story can also have differing interpretations--some of the non-adepts will be fine with the arrangement, others won't be, maybe some of the adepts themselves may feel uncomfortable with what they think deep down is their own unfair exploitation of the non-adepts.

    Maybe to illustrate with a real-life example: what's the most important factor of production in our real-life economy? A socialist would tell you it's labor, a capitalist would tell you it's capital. Each thinks their own side is the one that's really most important, but there's a reason neither side has definitively "won" yet, or definitively reconciled with each other--because in fact (given the way our economy works at the moment) nothing's getting produced without both of them. You can argue about what should happen--capital should be appropriated and used more democratically, or workers should be willing to accept the vagaries of an unregulated market because in the long run it produces the best outcomes, or some compromise like capital remains private but is taxed to provide a welfare safety net, etc. But none of those outcomes are any more inherent in the premise (ie our economy needs both capital and labor to function) than the other.

    So I guess what that long-winded speech means in terms of your story is--maybe don't try to force too much on it. Maybe just leave the tension unresolved? It seems like a wonderfully fertile ground for coming up with new plot, character etc. ideas. I mean look at how many stories (both fictional and not) revolve around the socio-economic tensions in our own society/economy.
     
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  13. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I'm seeing a scene in my head now, of how I imagine First Contact:

    "Hey, news: Two Magicians walked into the western camp."

    "No, really? Some of them survived? What have they been eating?"

    "No idea, but one of them tried to order afternoon tea. The phrase 'and be quick about it' was involved."

    "You're kidding."

    "Nope. And they strolled through the tents and informed their escort that they'd take the conference tent 'until something better could be built.'"

    "No."

    "Yep. From what I heard, they really, I mean really, couldn't absorb the idea that we weren't going to just make them kings of the camp."

    "Wow. They're going to have a rude awakening."

    "I heard Harrison was going to double up some of the guards and give them a four-person permanent tent, just as a courtesy, but after that, they're in pup tents. Which they don't know how to erect."

    "You just made my day very happy."
     
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  14. savethebbbees

    savethebbbees New Member

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    If I am perfectly honest I don't know if the things you are actually describing fit well with a "class system." What you have described so far seems much more reminiscent of say Conquistadors landing in the New World or European travellers reaching North America rather than some kind of long term, established divide in social classes. So, in this case, the "proles" as you describe them (I'm going to use the term 'townspeople') have control over the resources that the "leading class" (I'm going to refer to them as 'the Order') need, but the Order can offer the townspeople technology (in the form of magic) and protection. You have assumed that this puts the Order in a default position of respect but I would argue this is not the case, and I believe it would be entirely unrealistic for any of the townspeople to immediately "bow down" to this "leadership." Sharing resources in exchange for learning to fight is not leadership, it is essentially a trade deal where goods are exchanged for services.

    In order to establish some kind of realistic rapport between the two populations, it is also crucial that the Order need something from the townspeople - for this I would suggest uneven resource distribution. If the Order have equal access to resources as well as magic and better fighting skills, they have no real reason to interact with the townspeople. If they believe the townspeople to be lesser, then they aren't going to consider "human interaction" with them valuable, and as an extension of that are unlikely to want to rebuild the previous society. In a post-apocalyptic survival setting where the two main factors described are basic resources (water, food, shelter) and protection (magic, fighting experience), I would urge you to consider Maslow's hierarchy of needs. If people are struggling to survive, lusting after a previous society that they may not even have had positive experiences with is not their top priority, ideological drivers for actions will not be the top priority.

    Additionally, you describe the "lower classes" as previously having had "tribal" leaders. There are several things here that I would very strongly urge you to consider when writing about this kind of system:
    1) What do you mean by tribal? This is a pretty ill-defined term that has been historically used in damaging, West-centric ways and I would do some significant research to decide whay you mean by it in this context, and if perhaps there is a more accurate term you can use, or in fact a different system.
    2) You mention that the Order find this town where everyone is living. Within this town, how does the "tribal" leadership work, is it subdivided into warring districts? In this case, what is the distribution of resources? Why has unified leadership failed (assuming the populations are still relatively small considering the post apocalyptic setting)? How are leaders put into place within these systems? If groups are in competition with eachother, why? Are there long term conflicts between any of them, if so why? What separates the groups? Are there unreconcilable differences? If the main conflict of the townspeople is with the Horde, how do they sustain internal conflicts?
    3) Where are these leaders when the Order arrive? Is there immediate opposition to these newcomers? Are some groups within the town more willing to interact with them than others? Do some groups have a history of previous interactions with the Order/ a stronger connection to them that might make them more inclined to elevate them to a leadership position?

    Overall, I think there are ideas within what you have described that would make for interesting tensions between groups in your story but it seems like there is a lot of thought and research still to be done before this is going to make concrete sense. Also, whilst I appreciate this world is a fantasy setting, it would probably be beneficial to you - as suggested by other users - to learn more about real world conflicts, class related and otherwise, to ensure that you have a working understanding of the complexities of these kinds of issues. Without this understanding, you run the risk of deeply frustrating readers with unrealistic events and interactions, or possibly writing something insensitive or potentially inflamatory as I think ChickenFreak has begun to imply with their earlier comments.
     
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  15. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    Okay, this makes more sense. I think I originally framed your OP as a question of overcoming class struggle and I interpreted leadership in the classic governing sense. If you're looking for reasons for them to work together the most obvious would be survival in the face of a mutual adversary, whether that's a tangible enemy or just the milieu of their environment. I think the term proletariat threw me a bit too because that's a Marxist term predicated on a belief that the totality of history is a simple story of class/economic struggle. And to what @ChickenFreak mentioned, proletariat is not a contemptible term in its original sense. If anything, the term "masses" is more pejorative because it implies a hive mentality incapable of individual thought. The real bogeymen were the capitalists and the bourgeoisie according to Marx and doomed to be obviated by a utopian classless society. Of course, the term has been corrupted and adopted over the years (and shorted to "prole" by Orwell) and is often used in a negative sense, but if you're not speaking from a imperialist point of view, it may not be a relevant term for what you are attempting. The word proletariat by definition is a working class, so unless you have some sort of industrial society that includes a means of production, it might be better to steer clear of that rabbit hole.

    If that's your original question I'd think survival is the way to go. Otherwise, there is little historical evidence to suggest that a reconciliation of social class is even possible, particularly in the absence of a strong, established state, which I'd imagine would be impossible in a post-apocalyptic setting. Hell, the best way to eliminate social classes altogether is to eliminate the state. No state means no status quo means no social classes. There would still be a hierarchy, but I'd think that would more likely come down to who has the food and who has the guns and who has the better chance of survival. I suppose they could have a Rodney King "can't we all get along" moment (25th anniversary of that this month!!!!) but that might be hard to pull off.
     
  16. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Oh. I see no reason why they can't work together. They each have different things to contribute--why not work together?

    It's the assumption that the magic folks will rule that I'm objecting to. I think that the leader will come from the non-magic folks.
     
  17. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I think the ultimate leadership will likely be determined by which group is willing/able to do more than the other in order to achieve leadership. Like, if they have a vote, I assume they'd elect a non-magical leader b/c there are more non-magical people who would want to be represented. Yes, voters can certainly be convinced to vote against their self-interest (hello, modern politics) but that usually takes a pretty established set-up of media, economic coercion, propaganda, etc that doesn't seem to be in place in your setting.

    If your magic-users are willing to be coercive and seize power, then it would come down to how powerful their magic is and how well the others are able to fight back.

    But your posts seem to be contemplating a meritocracy based on leadership skills, and I think that's where people are running into difficulty. There's no reason I can see to assume that the magic users would somehow just be better leaders and the non-magic-users would recognize and accept that.
     
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  18. TyrannusRex

    TyrannusRex Active Member

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    I got tired of writing "lower class" or "workers" or whatever, and technically, they're all survivors.
    I initially didn't use it because it did sound very oppressive, Orwellian even. (wink)
    It just happened out of utility at the time.
     
  19. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    OK. I still don't see why the magic users must be rulers.
     
  20. TyrannusRex

    TyrannusRex Active Member

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    (I love the kinds of discussion this is generating!)

    I know it came off sounding like the Order is seizing power and being assholes to the camp(s) of survivors, but I hadn't originally intended it that way. That's just me and my (at times) poor skills with words. The scenario is something like, they show up and start to explain themselves, people start remembering things, and they are offered shelter and food. Then, one of the local leaders asks them if they could help resolve a dispute with another nearby camp, which they do, convincing the two that they need each other to survive.
    The Order decides to hang around (because really, where else is there to live?) and through good deeds (like fighting the horde, gathering supplies, and educating the people on their history (they'd previously had a very "members only" mentality about magic and such)), they elevate themselves to a position of respect within the community.
    I didn't mean to make it sound like they were high-and-mighty douchebags who wanted their feet kissed, but that "fight" earlier implies that not everything is perfect (of course it's not) and that the Order needs to remember where it stands.
    Heck, I had a scene later where everyone teams up to fight the horde; the townspeople all turn and look at the magicians, and the person at the head of the Order says something on the order (heh) of "No, I'm not in the position to be commanding any of you..." and one of their leaders says "We are yours to command." By then, they've garnered enough respect from most everyone else to be trusted with leadership, in battle at least.
    And another scene has someone come up and offer a makeshift crown, and she says "I am no queen."

    So yeah, I'm a doof. I had forgotten about some of my own writing. :rofl:
     
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  21. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    But why would they do that? That's what I don't understand. Why would they ask a newcomer, who has no particular experience with or knowledge of either group, to resolve a dispute? Why would a leader give his power away to a newcomer? That suggests a reaction of, "Oh. Your IQ scores are higher than mine? Please, boss me around." And that, well, just doesn't sound like humans. :)

    Sure, that's fine, they might manage to become equals. It still doesn't make them rulers or even leaders.

    This, and the crown part, I would find un-buyable. Why would these people be so eager to demote themselves to children, to give away all power? It's just not natural for humans to do that.

    Yes, there's a lot of fiction with misty sentimental expressions of loyalty and obedience to rulers, but those are preexisting rulers. They either came up through the ranks of the people or, much more likely, conquered them in earlier generations and then raised multiple generations with a culture of obedience and subservience to rank. That's not the situation here.
     
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  22. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I think there is a (literary) tradition of an individual earning this kind of loyalty. I'm trying to think of examples, and they're a bit hazy, but... like, a sort of "chosen one" who earns a following? Joan of Arc type stuff. But I'm not sure about a whole group...
     
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  23. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Yes; I could theoretically see an incredibly charismatic individual achieving this. And it's not impossible for the charismatic individual to be a member of the new, powerful, intruding group, though that power would IMO be a strike against that person, not for them.
     
  24. TyrannusRex

    TyrannusRex Active Member

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    Let's try a new scenario:
    For some time prior, a lone wanderer (and member of the Order) had been in contact with the survivor group(s) and proven himself a wise man and worthy ally.
    When other members of the Order show up, he can use his influence to get them trusted a bit easier, getting the survivors to give these magical weirdos a chance to prove themselves, and defusing any conflicts that may arise, as he genuinely cares and wants both sides to work harmoniously.
     

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