Working class

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working class, a term of great importance in sociology and politics. Construction Workers.jpg
working class, a term of great importance in sociology and politics.

The working class (or labouring class) comprises those engaged in waged or salaried labour, especially in manual-labour occupations and industrial work. [1] [2] Working-class occupations (see also "Designation of workers by collar color") include blue-collar jobs, some white-collar jobs, and most pink-collar jobs. Members of the working class rely for their income exclusively upon their earnings from wage labour; thus, according to the 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 (cities, towns, villages) of non-industrialized economies or in the rural workforce.

Wage Reimbursement paid by an employer to an employee

A wage is monetary compensation paid by an employer to an employee in exchange for work done. Payment may be calculated as a fixed amount for each task completed, or at an hourly or daily rate, or based on an easily measured quantity of work done.

Salary remuneration paid by an employer to an employee

A salary is a form of payment from an employer to an employee, which may be specified in an employment contract. It is contrasted with piece wages, where each job, hour or other unit is paid separately, rather than on a periodic basis. From the point of view of running a business, salary can also be viewed as the cost of acquiring and retaining human resources for running operations, and is then termed personnel expense or salary expense. In accounting, salaries are recorded in payroll accounts.

Manual labour physical work done by people

Manual labour or manual work is physical work done by people, most especially in contrast to that done by machines, and to that done by working animals. It is most literally work done with the hands, and, by figurative extension, it is work done with any of the muscles and bones of the body. For most of human prehistory and history, manual labour and its close cousin, animal labour, have been the primary ways that physical work has been accomplished. Mechanisation and automation, which reduce the need for human and animal labour in production, have existed for centuries, but it was only starting in the 18th and 19th centuries that they began to significantly expand and to change human culture. To be implemented, they require that sufficient technology exist and that its capital costs be justified by the amount of future wages that they will obviate. Semi-automation is an alternative to worker displacement that combines human labour, automation, and computerization to leverage the advantages of both man and machine.

Contents

In Marxist theory and socialist literature, the term working class is often used interchangeably with the term proletariat and includes all workers who expend both physical and mental labour (salaried knowledge workers and white-collar workers) to produce economic value for the owners of the means of production (the bourgeoisie in Marxist literature). [3]

Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership of the means of production and workers' self-management, as well as the political theories and movements associated with them. Social ownership can be public, collective or cooperative ownership, or citizen ownership of equity. There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them, with social ownership being the common element shared by its various forms.

The proletariat is the class of wage-earners in an economic society whose only possession of significant material value is their labour-power. A member of such a class is a proletarian.

Knowledge workers are workers whose main capital is knowledge. Examples include programmers, physicians, pharmacists, architects, engineers, scientists, design thinkers, public accountants, lawyers, and academics, and any other white-collar workers, whose line of work requires the one to "think for a living".

Definitions

As with many terms describing social class, working class is defined and used in many different ways. The most general definition, used by Marxists and many socialists, is that the working class includes all those who have nothing to sell but their labour power and skills. In that sense it includes both white and blue-collar workers, manual and mental workers of all types, excluding only individuals who derive their income from business ownership and the labour of others. [4] [ verification needed ]

Social class Hierarchical social stratification

A social class is a set of subjectively defined concepts in the social sciences and political theory centered on models of social stratification in which people are grouped into a set of hierarchical social categories, the most common being the upper, middle and lower classes.

Marxism economic and sociopolitical worldview based on the works of Karl Marx

Marxism is a theory and method of working-class self-emancipation. As a theory, it relies on 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.

When used non-academically in the United States, however, it often refers to a section of society dependent on physical labour, especially when compensated with an hourly wage. For certain types of science, as well as less scientific or journalistic political analysis. For example, the working class is loosely defined as those without college degrees. [5] Working-class occupations are then categorized into four groups: unskilled labourers, artisans, outworkers, and factory workers. [6] [ page needed ]

Labour economics seeks to understand the functioning and dynamics of the markets for wage labour.

A common alternative, sometimes used in sociology,[ citation needed ] is to define class by income levels. [7] When this approach is used, the working class can be contrasted with a so-called middle class on the basis of differential terms of access to economic resources, education, cultural interests, and other goods and services. The cut-off between working class and middle class here might mean the line where a population has discretionary income, rather than simply sustenance (for example, on fashion versus merely nutrition and shelter).

Sociology Scientific study of human society and its origins, development, organizations, and institutions

Sociology is the study of society, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture of everyday life. It is a social science that uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about social order, acceptance, and change or social evolution. While some sociologists conduct research that may be applied directly to social policy and welfare, others focus primarily on refining the theoretical understanding of social processes. Subject matter ranges from the micro-sociology level of individual agency and interaction to the macro level of systems and the social structure.

The middle class is a class of people in the middle of a social hierarchy. The very definition of the term "middle class" is highly political and vigorously contested by various schools of political and economic philosophy. Modern social theorists - and especially economists - have defined and re-defined the term "middle class" in order to serve their particular political ends. The definitions of the term "middle class" therefore are the result of the more- or less-scientific methods used when delineating the parameters of what is and isn't "middle class".

Some researchers have suggested that working-class status should be defined subjectively as self-identification with the working-class group. [8] [ page needed ] This subjective approach allows people, rather than researchers, to define their own social class.

History and growth

Working-class life in Victorian Wetherby, West Riding of Yorkshire, England Victorian Bishopgate.jpg
Working-class life in Victorian Wetherby, West Riding of Yorkshire, England

In feudal Europe, the working class as such did not exist in large numbers. Instead, most people were part of the labouring class, a group made up of different professions, trades and occupations. A lawyer, craftsman and peasant were all considered to be part of the same social unit, a third estate of people who were neither aristocrats nor church officials. Similar hierarchies existed outside Europe in other pre-industrial societies. The social position of these labouring classes was viewed as ordained by natural law and common religious belief. This social position was contested, particularly by peasants, for example during the German Peasants' War. [9] [ page needed ]

In the late 18th century, under the influence of the Enlightenment, European society was in a state of change, and this change could not be reconciled with the idea of a changeless god-created social order. Wealthy members of these societies created ideologies which blamed many of the problems of working-class people on their morals and ethics (i.e. excessive consumption of alcohol, perceived laziness and inability to save money). In The Making of the English Working Class , E. P. Thompson argues that the English working class was present at its own creation, and seeks to describe the transformation of pre-modern labouring classes into a modern, politically self-conscious, working class. [9] [ verification needed ] [10]

Starting around 1917, a number of countries became ruled ostensibly in the interests of the working class (see Soviet working class). Some historians have noted that a key change in these Soviet-style societies has been a massive a new type of proletarianization, often effected by the administratively achieved forced displacement of peasants and rural workers. Since then, four major industrial states have turned towards semi-market-based governance (China, Laos, Vietnam, Cuba), and one state has turned inwards into an increasing cycle of poverty and brutalization (North Korea). Other states of this sort have collapsed (such as the Soviet Union). [11]

Since 1960, large-scale proletarianization and enclosure of commons has occurred in the third world, generating new working classes. Additionally, countries such as India have been slowly undergoing social change, expanding the size of the urban working class. [12] [ page needed ]

Marxist definition: the proletariat

Striking teamsters battling police on the streets of Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 1934 Battle strike 1934.jpg
Striking teamsters battling police on the streets of Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 1934

Karl Marx defined the working class or proletariat as individuals who sell their labour power for wages and who do not own the means of production. He argued that they were responsible for creating the wealth of a society. He asserted that the working class physically build bridges, craft furniture, grow food, and nurse children, but do not own land, or factories. [13] [ page needed ]

A sub-section of the proletariat, the lumpenproletariat (rag-proletariat), are the extremely poor and unemployed, such as day labourers and homeless people. Marx considered them to be devoid of class consciousness.

In The Communist Manifesto , Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels argued that it was the destiny of the working class to displace the capitalist system, with the dictatorship of the proletariat (the rule of the many, as opposed to the "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie"), abolishing the social relationships underpinning the class system and then developing into a future communist society in which "the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all." The Communist Manifesto was a response to Adam Smith's pro capitalist text The Wealth of Nations [14] (published in 1776). Some issues in Marxist arguments about working-class membership have included:

Possible responses to some of these issues are:

In general, in Marxist terms wage labourers and those dependent on the welfare state are working class, and those who live on accumulated capital are not. This broad dichotomy defines the class struggle. Different groups and individuals may at any given time be on one side or the other. For example, retired factory workers are working-class in the popular sense; but to the extent that they live off fixed incomes, financed by stock in corporations whose earnings are profit, retired factory workers' interests, and possibly their identities and politics, are not working class. Such contradictions of interests and identity within individuals' lives and within communities can effectively undermine the ability of the working class to act in solidarity to reduce exploitation, inequality, and the role of ownership in determining people's life chances, work conditions, and political power.

See also

Related Research Articles

Leninism political, social, and economic theory developed by Vladimir Lenin

Leninism is the political theory for the organisation of a revolutionary vanguard party and the achievement of a dictatorship of the proletariat as political prelude to the establishment of socialism. Developed by and named for the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, Leninism comprises socialist political and economic theories, developed from Marxism and Lenin's interpretations of Marxist theories, for practical application to the socio-political conditions of the Russian Empire of the early 20th century.

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.

Bourgeoisie polysemous French term which denotes the wealthy stratum of the middle class that originated during the latter part of the Middle Ages

The bourgeoisie is a polysemous French term that can mean:

<i>The State and Revolution</i> book

The State and Revolution (1917), by Vladimir Lenin, describes the role of the State in society, the necessity of proletarian revolution, and the theoretic inadequacies of social democracy in achieving revolution to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Social stratification population with similar characteristics in a society

Social stratification is a kind of social differentiation whereby a society groups people into socioeconomic strata, based upon their occupation and income, wealth and social status, or derived power. As such, stratification is the relative social position of persons within a social group, category, geographic region, or social unit.

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 socialist political movement and ideology

In political and social sciences, communism is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the 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.

Class consciousness

In political theory and particularly Marxism, class consciousness is the set of beliefs that a person holds regarding their social class or economic rank in society, the structure of their class, and their class interests. According to Karl Marx, it is an awareness that is key to sparking a revolution that would "create a dictatorship of the proletariat, transforming it from a wage-earning, property-less mass into the ruling class".

<i>Lumpenproletariat</i>

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. Among other groups criminals, vagabonds, and prostitutes are usually included in this category.

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 Leninism and Marxism–Leninism.

Socialist mode of production

In Marxist theory, the socialist mode of production, also referred to as lower-stage of communism or simply socialism as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels used the terms socialism and communism interchangeably, refers to a specific historical phase of economic development and its corresponding set of social relations that emerge from capitalism in the schema of historical materialism. The Marxist definition of socialism is an economic transition where the sole criterion for production is use-value and therefore the law of value no longer directs economic activity. Marxist production for use is coordinated through conscious economic planning while 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 so that social surplus goes to the working class and hence society as a whole.

Revolutionary socialism is the socialist doctrine that social revolution is necessary in order to bring about structural changes to society. More specifically, it is the view that revolution is a necessary precondition for a transition from capitalism to socialism. Revolution is not necessarily defined as a violent insurrection; it is defined as seizure of political power by mass movements of the working class so that the state is directly controlled or abolished by the working class as opposed to the capitalist class and its interests. Revolutionary socialists believe such a state of affairs is a precondition for establishing socialism and orthodox Marxists believe that it is inevitable but not predetermined.

Dictatorship of the proletariat Marxist political concept

In Marxist philosophy, the dictatorship of the proletariat is a state of affairs in which the working class hold political power. Proletarian dictatorship is the intermediate stage between a capitalist economy and a communist economy, whereby the government nationalises ownership of the means of production from private to collective ownership. The socialist revolutionary Joseph Weydemeyer coined the term "dictatorship of the proletariat", which Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels adopted to their philosophy and economics. The Paris Commune (1871), which controlled the capital city for two months, before being suppressed, was an example of the dictatorship of the proletariat. In Marxist philosophy, the term "Dictatorship of the bourgeoisie" is the antonym to "dictatorship of the proletariat".

Proletarian internationalism Marxist social class concept

Proletarian internationalism, sometimes referred to as international socialism, is the perception of all communist revolutions as being part of a single global class struggle rather than separate localized events. It is based on the theory that capitalism is a world-system and therefore the working classes of all nations must act in concert if they are to replace it with communism. Proponents of proletarian internationalism often argued that the objectives of a given revolution should be global rather than local in scope—for example, triggering or perpetuating revolutions elsewhere.

References

Footnotes

  1. "WORKING CLASS | definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary". dictionary.cambridge.org. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  2. "working class". Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
  3. Glaberman, Martin (1975). "Marxist Views of the Working Class". The Working Class and Social Change. Retrieved 18 January 2013 via Marxists Internet Archive.
  4. McKibbin 2000, p. 164.
  5. Edsall, Thomas B. (17 June 2012). "Canaries in the Coal Mine" . Campaign Stops. The New York Times. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  6. Doob 2013.
  7. Linkon 1999, p. 4.
  8. Rubin et al. 2014.
  9. 1 2 Abendroth 1973.
  10. jar35@cam.ac.uk. "Thompson: The Making of the English Working Class — Faculty of History". www.hist.cam.ac.uk. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  11. Kuromiya 1990, p. 87.
  12. Gutkind 1988.
  13. Lebowitz 2016.
  14. "The Wealth of Nations". Adam Smith Institute. Retrieved 1 May 2019.

Bibliography

Abendroth, Wolfgang (1973). A Short History of the European Working Class.
Doob, Christopher B. (2013). Social Inequality and Social Stratification in US Society. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education. ISBN   978-0-205-79241-2.
Gutkind, Peter C. W., ed. (1988). Third Worlds Workers: Comparative International Labour Studies. International Studies in Sociology and Social Anthropology. 49. Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. Brill. ISBN   978-90-04-08788-0. ISSN   0074-8684.
Kuromiya, Hiroaki (1990). Stalin's Industrial Revolution: Politics and Workers, 1928–1931.
Lebowitz, Michael A. (2016). Beyond Capital: Marx's Political Economy of the Working Class.
Linkon, Sherry Lee (1999). "Introduction". In Linkon, Sherry Lee (ed.). Teaching Working Class. Amherst, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press. pp. 1ff. ISBN   978-1-55849-188-5.
McKibbin, Ross (2000). Classes and Cultures: England, 1918–1951.
Rubin, Mark; Denson, Nida; Kilpatrick, Sue; Matthews, Kelly E.; Stehlik, Tom; Zyngier, David (2014). "'I Am Working-Class': Subjective Self-Definition as a Missing Measure of Social Class and Socioeconomic Status in Higher Education Research". Educational Researcher. 43 (4): 196–200. doi:10.3102/0013189X14528373. ISSN   1935-102X.

Further reading

Benson, John (2003). The Working Class in Britain, 1850–1939. London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN   978-1-86064-902-8.
Blackledge, Paul (2011). "Why Workers Can Change the World". Socialist Review. No. 364. London. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
Connell, Raewyn; Irving, Terry (1980). Class Structure in Australian History. Melbourne: Longman Cheshire.
Engels, Friedrich (1968). The Condition of the Working Class in England . Translated by Henderson, W. O.; Chaloner, W. H. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. ISBN   978-0-8047-0634-6.
Miles, Andrew; Savage, Mike (1994). The Remaking of the British Working Class, 1840–1940. London: Routledge. ISBN   978-1-134-90681-9.
Moran, William (2002). Belles of New England: The Women of the Textile Mills and the Families Whose Wealth They Wove. New York: Thomas Dunne Books. ISBN   978-0-312-30183-5.
Raine, April Janise (2011). "Lifestyles of the Not So Rich and Famous: Ideological Shifts in Popular Culture, Reagan-Era Sitcoms and Portrayals of the Working Class". McNair Scholars Research Journal. 7 (1): 63–78. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
Rose, Jonathan (2010). The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes (2nd ed.). New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. ISBN   978-0-300-15365-1.
Rubin, Lillian B. (1976). Worlds of Pain: Life in the Working Class Family. New York: Basic Books. ISBN   978-0-465-09724-1.
Rowntree, Seebohm (2000) [1901]. Poverty: A Study of Town Life . Macmillan and Co. ISBN   1-86134-202-0.
Sheehan, Steven T. (2010). "'Pow! Right in the Kisser': Ralph Kramden, Jackie Gleason, and the Emergence of the Frustrated Working‐Class Man". Journal of Popular Culture. 43 (3): 564–582. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5931.2010.00758.x. ISSN   1540-5931.
Shipler, David K. (2004). The Working Poor: Invisible in America. New York: Knopf. ISBN   978-0-375-40890-8.
Skeggs, Beverley (2004). Class, Self, Culture. London: Routledge. ISBN   978-0-415-30086-5.
Thompson, E. P. (1968). The Making of the English Working Class (rev. ed.). Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books.
Turner, Katherine Leonard (2014). How the Other Half Ate: A History of Working-Class Meals at the Turn of the Century. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. ISBN   978-0-520-27758-8.
Zweig, Michael (2001). Working Class Majority: America's Best Kept Secret. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. ISBN   978-0-8014-8727-9.