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Proletariat: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The proletariat (from Latin proletarius, a citizen of the lowest class) 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 wealth other than their sons. The term was initially used in a derogatory sense[citation needed], Karl Marx strengthened this negative connotation using it as a sociological term to refer to the working class which he chose to describe them as a population to manipulate for the consolidation of power in the hands of a centralized statist government.


Usage in Marxist theory

A 1911 Industrial Worker publication advocating industrial unionism based on a critique of capitalism.

In Marxist theory, the proletariat is the class of a capitalist society that does not have ownership of the means of production and whose only means of subsistence is to sell their labour power[1] for a wage or salary. Proletarians are wage-workers, while some refer to those who receive salaries as the salariat. For Marx, however, wage labour 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.

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 lumpen proletariat, 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. While class belonging is often hard to determine in the case of each individual person, from the standpoint of society as a whole, taken in its movement (i.e. history), the class divisions are incontestable; the easiest proof of their existence is the class struggle - strikes, for instance. While an employee may be subjectively unsure of his class belonging, when his workmates come out on strike he is objectively forced to follow one class (his workmates, i.e. the proletariat) over the other (management, i.e. the bourgeoisie). Marx makes a clear distinction between proletariat as salaried workers, which he sees 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.[2][3] 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 in order to survive and to provide labour to the capitalist companies.[4] 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 capitalised surplus value[5]. Other part is used for the consumption of capitalists.

The commodities that proletarians produce and capitalists sell, are valued for the amount of labour embodied in them. The same goes for the workers' labour power itself: it is valued, not for the amount of wealth it produces, but for the amount of labour necessary to produce and reproduce it. Thus the capitalists earn wealth from the labour 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 labour applied to natural resources.[6]

Therefore, if someone gains wealth through the monopoly of means of production, then those who work to produce that wealth do not receive the full wealth created by their labour, nor do they have a say in the use of the wealth appropriated by the proprietors of means of production. Thus, Marxists argue that capitalists make a profit by exploiting the proletariat.

Marx argued that it was the goal of the proletariat to 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."[7].

Other usage

Arnold J. Toynbee uses 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.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Lumpen proletariat -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  3. ^ Marx, Karl. The Communist Manifesto, part I, Bourgeois and Proletarians.
  4. ^ Marx, Karl. The Capital, volume 1, chapter 6.
  5. ^ Luxemburg, Rosa. The Accumulation of Capital. Chapter 6, Enlarged Reproduction.
  6. ^ Marx, Karl. Critique of the Gotha Programme, I.
  7. ^ Marx, Karl. The Communist Manifesto, part II, Proletarians and Communists


  • Hal Draper, Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution, Vol. 2; The Politics of Social Classes. Monthly Review Press.

External links


Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity

In Marxism theory, the Proletariat were a class of society which did not have ownership in the means of production. Proletarians are wage-workers, who often work for/in; Unsanitary work places, low wages, dangerous situations, often treated cruelly and are the poorest and lowest class who own little or no property.

Within the Marxism Theory, they're is always a constant conflict between the Proletariat and the Bourgeoisie, because (as an example) factory workers were wanting higher wages, but the Bourgeoisie would usually/always turn them down.

According to Marxism, Capitalism is a system based on the fraudulent and under-handed treatment of the proletariat(the "capitalists", those who own and control the means of production). This foul treatment takes place as follows: One- The Proletariat get hired by a capitalist and work for him/her, the workers then produce goods or services. Two- These products or services become the capitalists property, who then sells them to gain profit. Three- a small portion of the wealth produced is used to pay the workers' share (the little they get), while the remaining (surplus value) is dealt amongst the capitalist's (profit). A portion of the Capitalists pay is used to buy supplies, pay bills and add more to their work forces. Therefore the capitalist can earn money from his employees' work, the Capitalists make profit without actually working any labor( excluding the work of hiring, buying supplies and keeping the workers working). Four- THE WORKERS OWN NO MEANS OF PRODUCTION, the proletariat must seek work, even if it means being exploited, just to meet the essentials of life. This is why Marxists argue that capitalists make a profit by exploiting workers/proletariat.

Marx himself urged that the proletariat itself must displace the capitalist system with Socialism, changing the social planning, underpinning the capitalist system, and then developing into a communist society in which: "...the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all" (Communist Manifesto).

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PROLETARIAT, or Proletariate, a term borrowed from the French and used collectively of those classes of a political community who depend for their livelihood on their daily labour, the wage-earning, operative class as opposed to the capitalowning class. It is of frequent use by those social reformers who base their theories on the supposed antagonism of capital and labour. The Latin proletarius, from which the word was formed, was the name given to the body of citizens possessed of no property and who therefore served the state with their children (proles, offspring). This division of the members of the state was traditionally ascribed to Servius Tullius.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also proletariat


German Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia de


Proletariat n.

  1. proletariat

Related terms

Simple English

A proletariat (often shortened, "prole" in slang) is a term commonly used by Communists, to describe the class of workers in an urban area, who work in the service industry or the manufacturing industry. These urban workers are different from the peasants, who are workers who do farming jobs in rural areas.

The political way of thinking of Communism states that the proletariat should have a revolution and take over the means of production. They are often sarcastically referred to as "wage-slaves."


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