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Again though hard empirical evidence for this “observation” is scant, as far as I can make out it is taken as the truth in most of political science. Most revolutionary leaders were middle class. Why them? An argument can be based on the assumption that individuals need to feel superior to others. The upper class can feel superior because they hold more possessions and can take that as a reference point for feeling superior. Hence they needn’t be idealistic to feel superior.
The middle class is inferior in terms of possessions and has to find another yardstick to feel superior by. They can then try to feel superior by being more virtuous than the upper class and not doing too badly materially. They can refer to their superior morals for their feeling of superiority.
The bottom class, having given up hope of feeling superior because they are materially too far behind the upper class to be able to compensate with morals, does its best to get by either by blindly following the dominant set of rules laid down by the then powerful (most coppers are lower class) or by ignoring them altogether (most criminals are lower class).
The weak link in this story is the behaviour of the bottom class. Perhaps an intervening relative issue here is whether an individual uses a critical mind in his daily activities. For the lower class, most professions do not require any critical thinking and the two approaches (full subordination to domination or total indifference) seem optimal. For the middle classes, perhaps there are more professions where critical thinking is needed, which coupled with the dominance drive may lead to idealism.
This could be empirically examined by looking at the professions of revolutionary leaders (or the professions they came into frequent contact with, such as the profession practiced in their family). Some subjective scoring of the extent to which critical thinking is necessary in different professions would have to underpin such an endeavour however. In current surveys one could directly couple scores on idealism questions with scores on self-reported levels of criticality needed in the job of the respondent.