Proletariat

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The proletariat ( /ˌprlɪˈtɛəriət/ from Latin proletarius "producing offspring") is the class of wage-earners in an economic society whose only possession of significant material value is their labour-power (how much work they can do). [1] A member of such a class is a proletarian.

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Marxist theory considers the proletariat to be oppressed by capitalism and the wage system. This oppression gives the proletariat common economic and political interests that transcend national boundaries. These common interests put the proletariat in a position to unite and take power away from the capitalist class (see dictatorship of the proletariat), in order to create a communist society free from class distinctions.

Proletarii in Ancient Rome

The proletarii constituted a social class of Roman citizens owning little or no property. The origin of the name is presumably linked with the census, which Roman authorities conducted every five years to produce a register of citizens and their property from which their military duties and voting privileges could be determined. For citizens with property valued 11,000 assēs or less, which was below the lowest census for military service, their children—proles (from Latin prōlēs, "offspring")—were listed instead of their property; hence, the name proletarius, "the one who produces offspring". The only contribution of a proletarius to the Roman society was seen in his ability to raise children, the future Roman citizens who can colonize new territories conquered by the Roman Republic and later by the Roman Empire. The citizens who had no property of significance 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." [2] [note 1]

Although included in one of the five support centuriae of the Comitia Centuriata (English: Centuriate Assembly), proletarii were largely deprived of their voting rights due to their low social status caused by their lack of "even the minimum property required for the lowest class" [3] and a class-based hierarchy of the Comitia Centuriata. The late Roman historians, such as Livy, not without some uncertainty, understood the Comitia Centuriata to be one of three forms of popular assembly of early Rome composed of centuriae, the voting units whose members represented a class of citizens according to the value of their property. This assembly, which usually met on the Campus Martius to discuss public policy issues, was also used as a means of designating military duties demanded of Roman citizens. [4] One of 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 . The top infantry class assembled with full arms and armor; the next two classes brought arms and armor, but less and lesser; the fourth class only spears; the fifth slings. In voting, the cavalry and top infantry class were enough to decide an issue; as voting started at the top, an issue might be decided before the lower classes voted. [5]

After the closing of the Second Punic War (218–201 BC), a series of subsequent wars, including the Jugurthine War and various conflicts in Macedonia and Asia, resulted in a significant reduction in the number of Roman family farmers. The effect was therefore that the Roman Republic experienced a shortage of people whose property qualified them to perform the citizenry's military duty to Rome. [6] As a result of the Marian reforms initiated in 107 BC by the Roman general Gaius Marius (157–86), which expanded the eligibility of military service to the urban poor, the proletarii became the backbone of the Roman army. [7]

Modern era reintroduction of Proletariat and Proletarian terms

In the era of 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 ancient 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". [8]

Swiss liberal economist and historian Jean Charles Léonard de Sismondi , was the first who applied the proletariat term to the working class created under capitalism, and whose writings were frequently cited by Marx. Marx most likely encountered the Proletariat term while studying the works of Sismondi. [9] [10] [11] [12]

Marxist theory

Karl Marx, who studied Roman law at the Friedrich Wilhelm University of Berlin, [13] used the term proletariat in his socio-political theory of Marxism to describe a working class unadulterated by private property and capable of a revolutionary action to topple capitalism in order to create classless society. In Marxist theory, the proletariat is the social class that does not have ownership of the means of production and whose only means of subsistence is to sell their labor power [14] for a wage or salary. Proletarians are wage-workers, while some refer to those who receive salaries as the salariat. For Marx, however, wage labor may involve getting a salary rather than a wage per se. Marxism sees the proletariat and bourgeoisie (capitalist class) as occupying conflicting positions, since workers automatically wish their wages to be as high as possible, while owners and their proxies wish for wages (costs) to be as low as possible.

A 1911 Industrial Worker publication advocating industrial unionism based on a critique of capitalism. The proletariat "work for all" and "feed all". Pyramid of Capitalist System.jpg
A 1911 Industrial Worker publication advocating industrial unionism based on a critique of capitalism. The proletariat "work for all" and "feed all".

In Marxist theory, the borders between the proletariat and some layers of the petite bourgeoisie, who rely primarily but not exclusively on self-employment at an income no different from an ordinary wage or below it — and the lumpenproletariat, who are not in legal employment — are not necessarily well defined. Intermediate positions are possible, where some wage-labor for an employer combines with self-employment. Marx makes a clear distinction between proletariat as salaried workers, which he sees as a progressive class, and Lumpenproletariat, "rag-proletariat", the poorest and outcasts of the society, such as beggars, tricksters, entertainers, buskers, criminals and prostitutes, which he considers a retrograde class. [15] [16] Socialist parties have often struggled over the question of whether they should seek to organize and represent all the lower classes, or just the wage-earning proletariat.

According to Marxism, capitalism is a system based on the exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie. This exploitation takes place as follows: the workers, who own no means of production of their own, must use the means of production that are property of others in order to produce, and consequently earn, their living. Instead of hiring those means of production, they themselves get hired by capitalists and work for them, producing goods or services. These goods or services become the property of the capitalist, who sells them at the market.

One part of the wealth produced is used to pay the workers' wages (variable costs), another part to renew the means of production (constant costs) while the third part, surplus value is split between the capitalist's private takings (profit), and the money used to pay rents, taxes, interests, etc. Surplus value is the difference between the wealth that the proletariat produces through its work, and the wealth it consumes to survive and to provide labor to the capitalist companies. [17] A part of the surplus value is used to renew or increase the means of production, either in quantity or quality (i.e., it is turned into capital), and is called capitalized surplus value. [18] What remains is consumed by the capitalist class.

The commodities that proletarians produce and capitalists sell are valued for the amount of labor embodied in them. The same goes for the workers' labor power itself: it is valued, not for the amount of wealth it produces, but for the amount of labor necessary to produce and reproduce it. Thus the capitalists earn wealth from the labor of their employees, not as a function of their personal contribution to the productive process, which may even be null, but as a function of the juridical relation of property to the means of production. Marxists argue that new wealth is created through labor applied to natural resources. [19]

Marx argued that the proletariat would 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". [20]

Prole drift

Prole drift, short for proletarian drift, is the tendency in advanced industrialized societies for everything inexorably to become proletarianized, or to become commonplace and commodified. This trend is attributed to mass production, mass selling, mass communication and mass education. Examples include best-seller lists, films and music that must appeal to the masses, and shopping malls. [21]

See also

Notes

  1. Arnold J. Toynbee, especially in his A Study of History , uses the word "proletariat" in this general sense of people without property or a stake in society. Toynbee focuses particularly on the generative spiritual life of the "internal proletariat" (those living within a given civil society). He also describes the "heroic" folk legends of the "external proletariat" (poorer groups living outside the borders of a civilization). Compare Toynbee, A Study of History (Oxford University 1934–1961), 12 volumes, in Volume V Disintegration of Civilizations, part one (1939) at 58–194 (internal proletariat), and at 194–337 (external proletariat).

Related Research Articles

Anti-capitalism political ideology and movement opposed to capitalism

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 economic value. These include raw materials, facilities, machinery and tools used in the production of goods and services. In the terminology of classical economics, the means of production are the "factors of production" minus financial and human capital.

Marxs theory of alienation pki anjeng

Karl Marx's theory of alienation describes the estrangement (Entfremdung) of people from aspects of their Gattungswesen ("species-essence") 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 Economic and sociopolitical worldview based on the works of Karl Marx

Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Marxism has developed into many different branches and schools of thought, with the result that there is now no single definitive Marxist theory.

Proletarianization

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.

Communism is a philosophical, social, political, 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.

Immiseration thesis

In Marxist theory and Marxian economics, the immiseration 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.

<i>Lumpenproletariat</i> Marxist term to describe the underclass

Lumpenproletariat is a term used primarily by Marxist theorists to describe the underclass devoid of class consciousness. Coined by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the 1840s, they used it to refer to the unthinking lower strata of society exploited by reactionary and counter-revolutionary forces, particularly in the context of the revolutions of 1848. They dismissed its revolutionary potential and contrasted it with the proletariat.

Working class Social class composed of members of the society employed in lower tier jobs

The working class comprises those engaged in waged or salaried labour, especially in manual-labour occupations and industrial work. Working-class occupations include blue-collar jobs, some white-collar jobs, and most pink-collar jobs. Members of the working class rely on their income exclusively upon earnings from wage labour; thus, according to more inclusive definitions, the category can include almost all of the working population of industrialized economies, as well as those employed in the urban areas of non-industrialized economies or in the rural workforce.

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 economic, philosophical, and sociological theories expounded by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

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.

Socialist mode of production

The socialist mode of production, also referred to as the lower-stage of communism or simply socialism as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels used the terms socialism and communism 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.

Dictatorship of the proletariat Marxist political concept

In Marxist philosophy, the dictatorship of the proletariat is a state of affairs in which a proletarian party 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 and compels the implementation of democratic elections on behalf and within the confines of the ruling proletarian state party. Instituting directly 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 classless communist society.

Workers of the world, unite! Rallying cry from The Communist Manifesto

The political slogan "Workers of the world, unite!" is one of the most famous rallying cries from 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.

Permanent revolution term within Marxist theory, coined about 1850

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 Marxist historiography

Historical materialism, also known as the materialist conception of history, is a methodology used by some communist 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 an example of Marx and Engel's scientific socialism, attempting to show that socialism and communism are scientific necessities rather than philosophical ideals.

Collectivist anarchism, also referred to as anarchist collectivism and anarcho-collectivism, is a revolutionary socialist doctrine and anarchist school of thought that advocates the abolition of both the state and private ownership of the means of production as it envisions in its place the means of production being owned collectively whilst controlled and self-managed by the producers and workers themselves. Notwithstanding the name, collectivism anarchism is seen as a blend of individualism and collectivism.

Outline of Marxism Overview of and topical guide to Marxism

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Marxism:

References

  1. proletariat. Accessed: 6 June 2013.
  2. Adolf Berger, Encyclopedic Dictionary of Roman Law (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society 1953) at 380; 657.
  3. Berger, Encyclopedic Dictionary of Roman Law (1953) at 351; 657 (quote).
  4. Titus Livius (c.59 BC – AD 17), Ab urbe condita , 1, 43; the first five books translated by Aubrey de Sélincourt as Livy, The Early History of Rome (Penguin 1960, 1971) at 81–82.
  5. Andrew Lintott, The Constitution of the Roman Republic (Oxford University 1999) at 55–61, re the Comitia Centuriata.
  6. Cf., Theodor Mommsen, Römisches Geschichte (1854–1856), 3 volumes; translated as History of Rome (1862–1866), 4 volumes; reprint (The Free Press 1957) at vol. III: 48–55 (Mommsen's Bk. III, ch. XI toward end).
  7. H. H. Scullard, Gracchi to Nero. A History of Rome from 133 BC to AD 68 (London: Methuen 1959, 4th ed. 1976) at 51–52.
  8. Félicité Robert de Lamennais: Modern Slavery (1840)
  9. Ekins, Paul; Max-Neef, Manfred (2006). Real Life Economics. Routledge. pp. 91–93.
  10. Ekelund Jr, Robert B.; Hébert, Robert F. (2006). A History of Economic Theory and Method: Fifth Edition. Waveland Press. p. 226.
  11. Lutz, Mark A. (2002). Economics for the Common Good: Two Centuries of Economic Thought in the Humanist Tradition. Routledge. pp. 55–57.
  12. Stedman Jones, Gareth (2006). "Saint-Simon and the Liberal origins of the Socialist critique of Political Economy". In Aprile, Sylvie; Bensimon, Fabrice (eds.). La France et l'Angleterre au XIXe siècle. Échanges, représentations, comparaisons. Créaphis. pp. 21–47.
  13. Cf., Sidney Hook, Marx and the Marxists (Princeton: Van Nostrand 1955) at 13.
  14. Marx, Karl (1887). "Chapter Six: The Buying and Selling of Labour-Power". In Frederick Engels (ed.). Das Kapital, Kritik der politischen Ökonomie[Capital: Critique of Political Economy]. Moscow: Progress Publishers. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  15. Lumpen proletariat – Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  16. Marx, Karl (February 1848). "Bourgeois and Proletarians". Manifesto of the Communist Party. Progress Publishers. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  17. Marx, Karl. The Capital, volume 1, chapter 6. http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch06.htm
  18. Luxemburg, Rosa. The Accumulation of Capital. Chapter 6, Enlarged Reproduction, http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1913/accumulation-capital/ch06.htm
  19. Marx, Karl. Critique of the Gotha Programme, I. http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/ch01.htm
  20. Marx, Karl. The Communist Manifesto, part II, Proletarians and Communists http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch02.htm
  21. Fussell, Paul (October 1992). Class, A Guide Through the American Status System. New York: Ballantine. ISBN   978-0-345-31816-9.

Further reading