The proletariat (from
Latin_la. "proles", "offspring") is a term used to identify a lower social class; a member of such a class is proletarian. Originally it was identified as those people who had no wealthother than their sons; the term was initially used in a derogatory sense, until Karl Marxused it as a sociological term to refer to the working class.
The Proletariat in Marxist theory
Marxisttheory, the proletariat is that class of society which does not have ownership of the means of productionand whose only worth is their labor in exchange for a wage(s) . Proletarians are wage-workers, while some refer to those who receive salaries as the "salariat". For Marx, however, wage labor may involve getting a salaryrather than a wage"per se".
Marxism sees the proletariat and
bourgeoisie(merchant class) as occupying conflicting positions, since (for example) factory workers automatically wish wages to be as high as possible, while owners and their proxies wish for wages (costs) to be as low as possible.
In Marxist theory,the proletariat may also include (1) some elements of the
petite bourgeoisie, if they rely primarily but not exclusively on self-employment at an income no different from an ordinary wage or below it, and (2) the lumpen proletariat, who are not in legal employment. Intermediate positions are possible, where some wage-labor for an employer combines with self-employment. Socialistpolitical parties have often struggled over the question of whether they should seek to organize and represent the entire proletariat, or just the wage-earning working class.
According to Marxism,
capitalismis a system based on the exploitationof the proletariat by the bourgeoisie(the "capitalists", who own and control the means of production). This exploitation takes place as follows: the workers, who own no means of production of their own, must seek jobs in order to live. They get hired by a capitalist and work for him, producing some sort of goods or services. These goods or services then become the property of the capitalist, who sells them and gets a certain amount of money in exchange. One part of the wealth produced is used to pay the workers' wages, while the other part ( surplus value) is split between the capitalist's private takings (profit), and the money used to pay rent, buy supplies and renew the forces of production. Thus the capitalist can earn money (profit) from the work of his employees without actually doing any work, or in excess of his own work. Marxists argue that new wealth is created through work; therefore, if someone gains wealth that he did not work for, then someone else works and does not receive the full wealth created by his work. In other words, that "someone else" is exploited. Thus, Marxists argue that capitalists make a profit by exploiting workers.
Marx himself argued that it was the goal of the proletariat itself to displace the capitalist system with
socialism, changing the social relationships underpinning the class system and then developing into a communistsociety in which: "..the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all" ( Communist Manifesto).
Marx makes a clear distinction of proletariat as salaried workers, which he sees a progressive class, with
Lumpen proletariat, "rag-proletariat", the poorest and outcasts of the society, such as beggars, tricksters, entertainers, buskers, criminals and prostitutes, which he considers a retrograde class [ [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9049344/Lumpenproletariat Lumpen proletariat -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia] ] . Arnold J. Toynbeeuses the term "internal" and "external proletariat" in his monumental " A Study of History" to describe the groups within and external to the frontiers of the state, who during the time of troubles, the World Empire and the decay of a civilization, are progressively disenfranchised, and come to have little loyalty to the survival of that civilization.
George Orwell's famous novel " Nineteen Eighty-Four", those not directly associated with The Party (either the " Inner Party" of rulers or the " Outer Party" of bureaucrats) were referred to as "the proles".
*Hal Draper, "Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution, Vol. 2; The Politics of Social Classes". Monthly Review Press.
* [http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/3909/our80s90s/workerism.html A critique of "workerism" with a Marxian definition of proletariat]
* [http://www.communism.org Communism.org] - informal communist discussion
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