These days we don’t use the term "The Man" very much except in a joking manner, but we all know what it means. Someone at Wikipedia came up with a pretty good summary of the concept:
"The Man" does not usually refer to a specific individual as such, but instead to the government, leaders of large corporations, and other authority figures in general, such as the police.[…]The Man is colloquially defined as the figurative person who controls our world. The Man is also often used as a symbol of racial oppression, as well as the boss of a blue-collar worker, and the enemy of any counterculture.
I’ve been thinking about this since reading an article by David Pogue of The New York Times on his experience discussing illegal sharing of mp3’s with different audiences. Generally, the younger audiences he talked to saw little wrong about sharing copies of commercial recordings online. Older audiences were much more mixed.
I think this is partly because most music from the big labels comes with a very high "man-factor" (quoting myself) and the young are very sensitive to this (plus they have less money, and worry less about getting caught, etc.).
As a high school teacher I was automatically given a boatload of man-factor that I had to deal with, and my students had highly tuned "mantennae."
So what does this all mean for us? Well…it’s a stretch, but it seems like any group thinking about social change and coming up with ideas like parecon or a radical society (that’s us) has to think about how much of a "man-factor" most people will give our efforts and organizations. Certainly the right knows about this. If you’ve read Frank’s book "What’s the Matter With Kansas" you get a pretty good idea how good the right has been at re-labeling the old and new left as the new Man. At the same time it’s pretty obvious that many on the elite right will try to label any effort to change things for the better as elitist. That’s the way it goes.