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The proletariat ( // from Latin proletarius 'producing offspring') are the social class of wage-earners, those members of a society whose only possession of significant economic value is their labour power (their capacity to work). A member of such a class is a proletarian.
Marxist philosophy considers the proletariat to be exploited under capitalism, forced to accept meagre wages in return for operating the means of production, which belong to the class of business owners, the bourgeoisie. Marx argued that this oppression gives the proletariat common economic and political interests that transcend national boundaries, impelling them to unite and take over power from the capitalist class, and eventually to create a communist society free from class distinctions.
The proletarii constituted a social class of Roman citizens who owned little or no property. The name presumably originated with the census, which Roman authorities conducted every five years to produce a register of citizens and their property, which determined their military duties and voting privileges. Those who owned 11,000 assēs or less fell below the lowest category for military service, and their children—prōlēs (offspring)—were listed instead of property; hence the name proletarius (producer of offspring). Roman citizen-soldiers paid for their own horses and arms, and fought without payment for the commonwealth, but the only military contribution of a proletarius was his children, the future Roman citizens who could colonize conquered territories. Officially, propertyless citizens were called capite censi because they were "persons registered not as to their property...but simply as to their existence as living individuals, primarily as heads (caput) of a family."
Although included in the Comitia Centuriata (Centuriate Assembly), proletarii were the lowest class, largely deprived of voting rights. Campus Martius to discuss public policy, designated the military duties of Roman citizens. One of the reconstructions of the Comitia Centuriata features 18 centuriae of cavalry, and 170 centuriae of infantry divided into five classes by wealth, plus 5 centuriae of support personnel called adsidui , one of which represented the proletarii. In battle, the cavalry brought their horses and arms, the top infantry class full arms and armor, the next two classes less, the fourth class only spears, the fifth slings, while the assisting adsidui held no weapons. In voting, the cavalry and top infantry class were enough to decide an issue; as voting started at the top, issues were usually decided before the lower classes voted.Late Roman historians such as Livy vaguely described the Comitia Centuriata as a popular assembly of early Rome composed of centuriae, voting units representing classes of citizens according to wealth. This assembly, which usually met on the
After the Second Punic War in 201 BC, the Jugurthine War and various conflicts in Macedonia and Asia reduced the number of Roman family farmers, and the Republic experienced a shortage of propertied citizen soldiers.The Marian reforms of 107 BC extended military eligibility to the urban poor, and henceforth the proletarii, as paid soldiers, became the backbone of the army, which later served as the decisive force in the fall of the Republic and the establishment of the Empire.
In the early 19th century, many Western European liberal scholars — who dealt with social sciences and economics — pointed out the socio-economic similarities of the modern rapidly growing industrial worker class and the classic proletarians. One of the earliest analogies can be found in the 1807 paper of French philosopher and political scientist Hugues Felicité Robert de Lamennais. Later it was translated to English with the title "Modern Slavery".
Swiss liberal economist and historian Jean Charles Léonard de Sismondi was the first to apply the proletariat term to the working class created under capitalism, and whose writings were frequently cited by Karl Marx. Marx most likely encountered the term while studying the works of Sismondi.
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Marx, who studied Roman law at the Friedrich Wilhelm University of Berlin,used the term proletariat in his socio-political theory (Marxism) to describe a progressive working class untainted by private property and capable of revolutionary action to topple capitalism and abolish social classes, leading society to ever higher levels of prosperity and justice.
Marx defined the proletariat as the social class having no significant ownership of the means of production (factories, machines, land, mines, buildings, vehicles) and whose only means of subsistence is to sell their labor power for a wage or salary.Proletarians are wage-workers, while some (though not Marx himself) distinguish salaried workers as the salariat.
Marxist theory only vaguely defines the borders between the proletariat and adjacent social classes. In the socially superior, less progressive direction are the lower petty bourgeoisie, such as small shopkeepers, who rely primarily on self-employment at an income comparable to an ordinary wage. Intermediate positions are possible, where wage-labor for an employer combines with self-employment. In another direction, the lumpenproletariat or "rag-proletariat", which Marx considers a retrograde class, live in the informal economy outside of legal employment: the poorest outcasts of society such as beggars, tricksters, entertainers, buskers, criminals and prostitutes.Socialist parties have often argued over whether they should organize and represent all the lower classes, or only the wage-earning proletariat.
According to Marxism, capitalism is based on the exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie: the workers, who own no means of production, must use the property of others to produce goods and services and to earn their living. Workers cannot rent the means of production (e.g. a factory or department store) to produce on their own account; rather, capitalists hire workers, and the goods or services produced become the property of the capitalist, who sells them at market.
Part of the net selling price pays the workers' wages (variable costs); a second part renews the means of production (constant costs, capital investment); while the third part is consumed by the capitalist class, split between the capitalist's personal profit and fees to other owners (rents, taxes, interest on loans, etc.). The struggle over the first part (wage rates) puts the proletariat and bourgeoisie into irreconcilable conflict, as market competition pushes wages inexorably to the minimum necessary for the workers to survive and continue working. The second part, called capitalized surplus value, is used to renew or increase the means of production (capital), either in quantity or quality.The second and third parts are known as surplus value, the difference between the wealth the proletariat produce and the wealth they consume
Marxists argue that new wealth is created through labor applied to natural resources.The commodities that proletarians produce and capitalists sell are valued not for their usefulness, but for the amount of labor embodied in them: for example, air is essential but requires no labor to produce, and is therefore free; while a diamond is much less useful, but requires hundreds of hours of mining and cutting, and is therefore expensive. The same goes for the workers' labor power: it is valued not for the amount of wealth it produces, but for the amount of labor necessary to keep the workers fed, housed, sufficiently trained, and able to raise children as new workers. On the other hand, capitalists earn their wealth not as a function of their personal labor, which may even be null, but by the juridical relation of their property to the means of production (e.g. owning a factory or farmland).
Marx argued that the proletariat would inevitably displace the capitalist system with the dictatorship of the proletariat, abolishing the social relationships underpinning the class system and then developing into a communist society in which "the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all".
Marx argued that each social class had its characteristic culture and politics. The socialist states stemming from the Russian Revolution championed an official version of proletarian culture.
This was quite different from the working-class culture of capitalist countries, which tend to experience "prole drift" (proletarian drift), in which everything inexorably becomes commonplace and commodified by means of mass production, mass selling, mass communication and mass education. Examples include best-seller lists, films, and music made to appeal to the masses, and shopping malls.
Anti-capitalism is a political ideology and movement encompassing a variety of attitudes and ideas that oppose capitalism. In this sense, anti-capitalists are those who wish to replace capitalism with another type of economic system, usually some form of socialism.
In economics and sociology, the means of production are physical and non-financial inputs used in the production of goods and services with economic value. These include raw materials, facilities, machinery and tools used in the production of goods and services.
Karl Marx's theory of alienation describes the social alienation of people from aspects of their human nature as a consequence of living in a society of stratified social classes. The alienation from the self is a consequence of being a mechanistic part of a social class, the condition of which estranges a person from their humanity.
Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical materialism, to understand class relations and social conflict as well as a dialectical perspective to view social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. As Marxism has developed over time into various branches and schools of thought, there is currently no single definitive Marxist theory.
In Marxian economics and preceding theories, the problem of primitive accumulation of capital concerns the origin of capital, and therefore of how class distinctions between possessors and non-possessors came to be.
In Marxism, proletarianization is the social process whereby people move from being either an employer, unemployed or self-employed, to being employed as wage labor by an employer. Proletarianization is often seen as the most important form of downward social mobility.
New Democracy, or the New Democratic Revolution, is a concept based on Mao Zedong's Bloc of Four Social Classes theory in post-revolutionary China which argued originally that democracy in China would take a path that was decisively distinct from that in any other country. He also said every Third World country would have its own unique path to democracy, given that particular country's own social and material conditions. Mao labeled representative democracy in the Western nations as Old Democracy, characterizing parliamentarianism as just an instrument to promote the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie/land-owning class through manufacturing consent. He also found his concept of New Democracy in contrast with the Soviet-style dictatorship of the proletariat which he assumed would be the dominant political structure of a post-capitalist world. Mao spoke about how he wanted to create a New China, a country freed from the feudal and semi-feudal aspects of its old culture as well as Japanese imperialism.
Communism is a philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of a communist society, namely a socioeconomic order structured upon the ideas of common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money and the state.
Marxian class theory asserts that an individual's position within a class hierarchy is determined by their role in the production process, and argues that political and ideological consciousness is determined by class position. A class is those who share common economic interests, are conscious of those interests, and engage in collective action which advances those interests. Within Marxian class theory, the structure of the production process forms the basis of class construction.
Free association, also known as free association of producers, is a relationship among individuals where there is no state, social class, hierarchy, or private ownership of means of production. Once private property is abolished, individuals are no longer deprived of access to means of production, thus enabling them to freely associate without social constraint to produce and reproduce their own conditions of existence and fulfill their individual and creative needs and desires. The term is used by anarchists and Marxists and is often considered a defining feature of a fully developed communist society.
In Marxist theory and Marxian economics, the immiseration thesis, also referred to as emiseration thesis, is derived from Karl Marx's analysis of economic development in capitalism, implying that the nature of capitalist production stabilizes real wages, reducing wage growth relative to total value creation in the economy, leading to the increasing power of capital in society.
In Karl Marx's critique of political economy and subsequent Marxian analyses, the capitalist mode of production refers to the systems of organizing production and distribution within capitalist societies. Private money-making in various forms preceded the development of the capitalist mode of production as such. The capitalist mode of production proper, based on wage-labour and private ownership of the means of production and on industrial technology, began to grow rapidly in Western Europe from the Industrial Revolution, later extending to most of the world.
Classical Marxism refers to the economic, philosophical and sociological theories expounded by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels as contrasted with later developments in Marxism, especially Marxism–Leninism.
The socialist mode of production, also referred to as the communist mode of production, the lower-stage of communism or simply socialism as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels used the terms communism and socialism interchangeably, is a specific historical phase of economic development and its corresponding set of social relations that emerge from capitalism in the schema of historical materialism within Marxist theory. The Marxist definition of socialism is that of an economic transition. In this transition, the sole criterion for production is use-value, therefore the law of value no longer directs economic activity. Marxist production for use is coordinated through conscious economic planning. Distribution of products is based on the principle of "to each according to his contribution". The social relations of socialism are characterized by the proletariat effectively controlling the means of production, either through cooperative enterprises or by public ownership or private artisanal tools and self-management. Surplus value goes to the working class and hence society as a whole.
In Marxist philosophy, the dictatorship of the proletariat is a state of affairs in which the proletariat holds political power. The dictatorship of the proletariat is the intermediate stage between a capitalist economy and a communist economy, whereby the post-revolutionary state seizes the means of production, compels the implementation of direct elections on behalf of and within the confines of the ruling proletarian state party, and instituting elected delegates into representative workers' councils that nationalise ownership of the means of production from private to collective ownership. During this phase, the administrative organizational structure of the party is to be largely determined by the need for it to govern firmly and wield state power to prevent counterrevolution and to facilitate the transition to a lasting communist society. Other terms commonly used to describe the dictatorship of the proletariat include socialist state, proletarian state, democratic proletarian state, revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat and democratic dictatorship of the proletariat.
The political slogan "Workers of the world, unite!" is one of the rallying cries from the The Communist Manifesto (1848) by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. A variation of this phrase is also inscribed on Marx's tombstone. The essence of the slogan is that members of the working classes throughout the world should cooperate to defeat capitalism and achieve victory in the class conflict.
"To each according to his contribution" is a principle of distribution considered to be one of the defining features of socialism. It refers to an arrangement whereby individual compensation is representative of one's contribution to the social product in terms of effort, labor and productivity. This is in contrast to the method of distribution and compensation in capitalism, an economic and political system in which property owners can receive unearned income by virtue of ownership irrespective of their contribution to the social product.
Permanent revolution is the strategy of a revolutionary class pursuing its own interests independently and without compromise or alliance with opposing sections of society. As a term within Marxist theory, it was first coined by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels by at least 1850, but since then it has been used to refer to different concepts by different theorists, most notably Leon Trotsky.
Historical materialism, also known as the materialist conception of history, is a methodology used by scientific socialist and Marxist historiographers that focuses on human societies and their development through history, arguing that history is the result of material conditions rather than ideals. This was first articulated by Karl Marx (1818–1883) as the "materialist conception of history". It is principally a theory of history which asserts that the material conditions of a society's mode of production, or in Marxist terms the union of a society's productive forces and relations of production, fundamentally determine society's organization and development. Historical materialism is a fundamental aspect of Marx and Engels' scientific socialism, arguing that applying a scientific analysis to the history of human society reveals fundamental contradictions within the capitalist system that will be resolved when the proletariat seizes state power and begins the process of implementing socialism.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Marxism:
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