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Producerism

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Producerism is a term used in academic circles to describe a political viewpoint that stakes out a "radical center" or "Third Way" course, which views a strong middle class as the productive element in society. This middle class is seen as under threat from both above — from big business and unregulated capital — and below, from what are viewed as "non-productive" elements in society (which may include illegal immigration, crime, people on welfare, or to use a Marxist concept, the lumpenproletariat.Wikipedia's W.svg) It is commonly identified as a conservative philosophy, though not exclusively so, with a handful of liberals and leftists also adhering to it.

Eat the rich, and the poor[edit]

Conservatives who tend toward producerist views tend to support trade unions and governmental regulation of big business, while viewing small business favorably; small business being seen as part of the productive middle class, and big business seen as parasitical and regarded with some disdain. Unlike left-wing unionists, though, producerism tends to see the working class and small capital as natural allies. On the other hand, producerism tends to oppose globalization and free trade. Social conservatives may hold producerist views on the grounds that the middle class is a stabilizing force and a repository of traditional values, while big business (e.g. Disney) and the lower classes both promote moral decay. This is a sharp break from the post-Reagan/Thatcher laissez-faire consensus on the right, in which the interests of big business and unregulated capital are given priority. Liberals who tend toward producerist views, meanwhile, will often speak in terms of "the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer, and the middle class being squeezed from both ends." A prosperous middle class is seen as a cushion against radicalism on both the extreme left and the extreme right, preventing the sort of social upheavals that would result in vulnerable and disadvantaged groups getting scapegoated and trampled on.

Producerism is often seen as one of the ideologies behind the post-New Deal consensus in the 1950s and '60s, which built a strong middle class but left some groups from below out, making the civil rights movement necessary. It is also often conflated with populism, as it touts the virtues of the "real people", i.e. the middle class. Ross Perot's Reform Party in the United States was also built heavily around producerist principles, there being little uniting the likes of the paleoconservative Pat Buchanan, the libertarian Jesse Ventura, and the leftists Fred Newman and Lenora Fulani beyond economic nationalism. A more radical sort of producerism might uphold a largely agrarian and small-town society (as proposed by Thomas Jefferson) as the ideal, holding urban society as a whole (with both its large capitalist "from above" and lumpen "from below" elements in full display) in disdain, and envision an economy entirely of small businesses and small producers. Distributism is an attempt to codify this into an economic system.

The dark side[edit]

There also exists a white supremacist use of producerism. In this version, the "productive middle class" is really a stand-in term for white people, and the threats to the middle class from above and below are respective code words for the Jews and people of color. Any explicit racism may be further muddled with additional dog whistles: the ever-present threats to the silent majority will include international bankers, the plutocracy, the Hollywood establishment, and tenured Marxist university professors from above, and crime, drugs, gangs, illegal immigrants, voter fraud, Willie Horton, anchor babies, Ice-T's "Cop Killer", Sistah Souljah, graffiti, Trayvon Martin, and single moms on welfare driving Cadillacs from below.

For an example of this sort of rhetoric with the racist overtones moderated into mere undertones, see Richard M. Nixon, particularly his Southern Strategy and appeals to the "Silent Majority". For a more radical and explicit example, Willis Carto made a career of (barely) disguising his hardline anti-Semitism and Nazi apologism as populism and standing up for "the forgotten middle class" using producerist framing.

See also[edit]