What is the working class?

We explain to you what the working class is and how was the emergence of this social class. Characteristics of the working class. Marxism.

  1. What is the working class?

Since the Industrial Revolution (1760-1840), it is called the working class, working class or simply proletariat to the social class that provides society with the labor force for production, construction and manufacturing , receiving in return an economic consideration ( salary ), without becoming the owners of the means of production in which they work.

The name working class comes from its equivalent in English, working class , and began to be used since the nineteenth century, but acquired its sociological and political importance from the studies of Carlos Marx and Federico Engels, founders of a social critical theory of capitalism that today is known as Marxism, and that is of enormous importance for the political and social movements of the left, such as communism , socialism and anarchism .

It is a term that distinguishes itself from the bourgeoisie or capitalist class , who are the owners of the means of production and who, according to Marxist logic , exploit workers to accumulate surplus value or surplus production, without having to exercise productive work themselves.

The proletariat also distinguishes itself, however, from crafts, as artisans possess the means of production of the objects they manufacture, such as their tools and workshops.

  1. How did the working class come about?

The origin of the working class is linked to the Industrial Revolution and the origins of capitalism , when the Western world made a leap towards industrialization and mass manufacturing of consumer products , leaving behind the agrarian model of the Middle Ages .

The city became the center of world production, and the old servants gave way to employees, as the money and not the lineage became the main engine of society .

Consequently, the class devoid of means of production such as factories, industries or businesses , offered the new ruling classes, which were no longer the aristocracies and landowners, but the industrial bourgeoisie, their labor force for the mass production of goods elaborated that society all required, as textile factories and craft workshops required specialized workers to produce more in less time in exchange for money. There is the birth of the working class.

  1. Characteristics of the working class

Working class
The working class receives a stipend or salary in exchange for their work.

The essential characteristics of the working class are, by way of summary:

  • It only has its workforce to offer the productive apparatus.
  • They constitute the weakest productive sector of capitalist society, and the most abundant.
  • In capitalism they do not control the means of production (the bourgeoisie does), only in communism or socialism.
  • They receive a stipend or salary in exchange for their work, with which they can consume, including the same products they produced with their effort.
  1. The working class according to Marx and Engels

The proletariat is defined in the Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels as “… the kind of modern wage workers who, deprived of their own means of production, are forced to sell their labor power in order to exist.”

This means that, according to Marxism, workers are exploited by the bourgeoisie , which makes them work much more than necessary for their own maintenance, paying them for hours worked but remaining all the fruit of their effort, which then sells them to a major cost of what it took to produce it. This surplus is known as surplus value .

Marx and Engels theorized in this regard that the situation of oppression would not change until the proletariat controlled the means of production , which went directly against the interests of the bourgeoisie, thus making these two social classes antagonistic by nature.

The only way, then, for the proletariat to triumph and impose a society without social classes would be through the Revolution and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat : a regime of government in which the entire population was working and the advantages were abolished. as private property or the so-called exploitation of man by man.

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