We Dwell In The Shadow Of A Massive Misnomer: “The Ruling Class.”

Andrew Birley
4 min readApr 30, 2022


Very often in this life, things can become so normalised that it never occurs to us to question them. We don’t actively accept these situations, but not challenging them could be regarded as a passive form of endorsement. And one conspicuous example immediately springs to mind. The “elite.”

The ‘elite’ are schooled to believe that they are born to lead.

If this comes as a galloping shock to you, I invite you to read an article in The New Statesman entitled The Eton Scholarship Question: this is how the British elite are trained to think.

It is a naked truth that the elite believe that they are born to rule, and why wouldn’t it be? Eton, Roedean, Gordonstoun, Cheltenham College for ladies and Winchester College, to name but a few, are considered by many people’s criteria to be the best schools that money can buy, and are therefore the most coveted. As a result they can demand the highest levels of achievement, and of course the highest fees, for places. Es lo que es, as they probably say at Westminster College. So they are the best of the best, and are nurtured as such, and must therefore be the ones to lead the rest of us.

There is one major flaw with this arrangement, it is utter bollocks.

For one thing, I imagine that most of the people who are offered the privilege of attending one of these palaces of pedagogy come from a specific section of society. And that section is strikingly, and unquestionably, a minority. It doesn’t take a genius to immediately see that this creates a big problem.

How can anyone be expected to lead a society that they aren’t directly connected to?

The “how much is a pint of milk” question is invariably wheeled out to embarrass politicians, often successfully. One has to ask oneself why don’t they have a Milk Department that closely analyses and reports on the fluctuations in milk prices? The truth is, I don’t know how much a pint of milk is either. I’m a woke flexitarian snowflake who doesn’t drink cow’s milk (actually it’s because the bovine beverage makes me feel ill), Minor Figures oat milk is my game and that’s around £1.80 per carton.

There are far more important things to comprehend than the price of milk. “What’s it like to not be able to afford private healthcare?” And “what is it really like to live in poverty?”, for example.

Once this striking but undeniable disconnect is acknowledged, it clearly highlights that the current system is fundamentally flawed. But continuing to refer to them as “the ruling class” and “the elite” runs the risk of perpetuating a very dangerous semblance. Although the terms are often used in a derogatory sense, is there a possibility that using them also leads to some level of status affirmation?

I asked my good friend (I wish!) Noam Chomsky about this, explaining my concern that using nouns such as “elite” and “ruling class” may become self-determining. Noam kindly replied, explaining that he uses the terms freely and doesn’t see a problem. But it gnawed at me before I contacted him and continues to nibble, despite my unwavering conviction that he knows a great deal more about it than I.

If Anita and Alan the aliens took their spaceship out for a Sunday spin, and looked down upon the Earth they would clearly see a colossal disfunction in the ruling structure. I believe, and imagine that Anita and Alan would agree, that for societies to be governed effectively, the governing body (or bodies) needs to be genuinely diverse. This will undoubtedly bring a richness of opinion, developed from a broad spectrum of understanding. Ultimately it would ensure that governance was based on reality, not determined by a narrow set of ill suited ideologies.

Therefore, I believe that terms such as the “elite” and “ruling class” are misleading misnomers. They are classifications for a minor section of society. But, perhaps rather cleverly, they also falsely convey that this minority section of society is superior, and therefore should be in charge.

I looked up “ruling class” in my thesaurus, here are some examples:

  • High born
  • Better sort
  • Upper class
  • Good breeding

And then I looked up the definition of “elite”.

Elite: /eɪˈliːt,ɪˈliːt/ noun: a select group that is superior in terms of ability or qualities to the rest of a group or society.

Language is a powerful tool, and words often have double meanings. By referring to a group as the ruling class, we run the risk of being passively lulled into accepting that they should be in charge.



Andrew Birley

Penning musings about whatever pops into my brain. Including stuff about the brain. Very grateful to anyone who drops by, and comments warmly received.