18 April 2023

What is the proletariat? – Definition, history and importance of the term

By Donald

the proletariat is a social class. They do not own or control the means of production such as factories and land, and depend on their labor for a living. In the 19th century, the concept became important with industrial capitalism and Marxist theory, which stated that the proletariat had to free itself from the exploitation of the bourgeoisie. In this article we will explain what it is about and how it has evolved over time.

Definition and meaning of the proletariat

The proletariat is a social class that It is characterized by not having its own properties or means of production. It depends on the sale of its labor power in exchange for a salary in order to survive.

The term proletariat comes from the Latin ‘proles’, which means descent or lineage. It was used in ancient Rome to refer to poor citizens who could only contribute to the State with their sons in the army.

With the industrial revolution of the 19th century. The concept of proletariat acquired a new meaning, by identifying with the working class who worked in factories and companies under the control and exploitation of the bourgeoisie. That it is the social class that owns the means of production and wealth.

The proletariat can be urban or rural, depending on the environment and the economic activity in which it works. Along the history has been a subject of social and political struggle. This class has sought to improve their working conditions and well-being through unions, parties, strikes and social movements.

Some historical examples of leadership of the proletariat are:

  • The Paris Commune of 1871.
  • The French Revolution of 1848.
  • The Russian Revolution of 1917.
  • The French May of 1968.

What is the proletariat according to Karl Marx?

According to Karl Marx, It is a social class that has nothing of its own. No houses, no land, no factories. He only owns his work, which he sells for a minimum wage to survive. It arises with the development of industrial capitalism, which generates a great concentration of property and power in the hands of a minority, the bourgeoisie. This social class exploits the proletariat by appropriating surplus value, that is, the difference between the value that labor creates and the salary that the worker receives.

From the Marxist point of view. the proletariat It is the only class capable of transforming society and put an end to the exploitation and alienation imposed by capitalism. For this, the proletariat must become aware of its class situation and organize itself in order to fight against the bourgeoisie and its institutions.

The ultimate goal of the proletariat is abolish social classes and establish a society based on communism. Where the means of production are collectively owned and wealth is distributed according to the needs of each one.

What is the urban proletariat?

is the social class formed by the workers who carry out industrial activities in the cities, without owning the means of production or control over them. With the industrial revolution and the rise of the capitalist system, the urban proletariat became the class exploited by the bourgeoisie, which was the sole owner of the factories and wealth.

The urban proletariat is characterized by being subjected to long working hours and poor living conditions. According to Marxist theory, this is the social class called to make the revolution that ends capitalism and establishes a society without classes or exploitation.

What is the agricultural proletariat?

It is a category of workers who engaged in agricultural work, without owning land or own means of production. Like the urban proletariat, the agricultural proletariat must sell its labor power in exchange for a salary in order to survive. However, the agricultural proletariat usually faces more precarious and unfavorable conditions than the urban one. Due to seasonality, informality and the exploitation of their work.

The agricultural proletariat originates with the development of capitalism in the countryside. This causes the expropriation and displacement of peasants and small producers. Who are forced to work as employees for large landowners or agro-industrial companies, which control the means of production and wealth. This class is made up of different sectors, such as day laborers, laborers, sharecroppers, settlers and cooperative members.

It has an important role in the production of food and raw materials for the national and international markets. However, their situation is one of marginalization and social exclusion, since they do not have access to education, health, housing, social security, or political participation. Besides this, is vulnerable to the effects of climate changepests, diseases and price fluctuations.

What is the capitalist proletariat?

It is the term used to refer to the social class that, in the capitalist economic system, does not own or control the means of production or the distribution of goods and services. He was born in the cradle of feudal society. When peasants were driven off their land by the expansion of trade and industry, and moved to the cities in search of employment.

The capitalist proletariat is characterized by being subjected to exploitation and alienation by the bourgeoisie. Which is the social class that, in this case, is the one that owns and controls the means of production and distribution. In this way, it appropriates the surplus value generated by the work of the proletariat.

According to Marxist theory, It is the revolutionary social class par excellence. Able to transform the capitalist system and build a society of socialism and communism. Based on the collective ownership of the means of production and the equitable distribution of wealth. For this, the capitalist proletariat must develop its class consciousness, organize itself and fight against the domination and oppression of the bourgeoisie.

What are the characteristics of the proletariat?

The characteristics of the proletariat are the following:

  • It is the poorest and least powerful social class of capitalist society.
  • He does not have his own goods or means of production, only his work capacity that he sells for a salary.
  • Its origin dates back to ancient Rome, where citizens who could only give children to the State for the army were called that.
  • Its meaning changed with the Industrial Revolution.when he identified with the working class that worked in the factories and companies under the exploitation of the bourgeoisie.
  • It can be urban or rural, depending on the place and the type of work you do.
  • It has been a subject of social and political struggle, which have sought to improve their working conditions and their welfare through unions, parties, strikes and social movements.
  • He is considered by Marxism as the historical protagonist capable of overthrowing capitalism and build a society under communism.

What relationship is there between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat?

They are two opposite social classes, so their relationship could be defined as one of exploitation and conflict. While one is the most privileged (the bourgeoisie) and owns everything: factories, machines, money and land. The other (the proletariat) has nothing: only their work.

In this way, the rich take advantage and pay the working class for their work, but keeps most of the value it produces. Making the bourgeoisie richer and more powerful, while the proletariat remains poor and exploited.

It is an unfair situation and creates conflicts between the two classes. It is partly the fault of the capitalist system, which creates many problems for people and the planet. The bourgeoisie wants to continue earning more and more, and the proletariat wants to live better and with dignity.

The working class is the only one that can change this situation, if it unites and fights against the bourgeoisie and capitalism. The dream of the proletariat is to end the social classes and make a communist society, where everything is distributed according to what each one needs.