/proh'li tair"ee euht/, n.1. the class of wage earners, esp. those who earn their living by manual labor or who are dependent for support on daily or casual employment; the working class.2. (in Marxist theory) the class of workers, esp. industrial wage earners, who do not possess capital or property and must sell their labor to survive.3. the lowest or poorest class of people, possessing no property, esp. in ancient Rome.[1850-55; < F prolétariat; see PROLETARY, -ATE3]
* * *The lowest, or one among the lowest, economic and social classes in a society.In ancient Rome, the proletariat were poor landless freemen who, crowded out of the labour market by the extension of slavery, became parasites on the economy. Karl Marx used the term to refer to the class of wage earners engaged in industrial production only (the broader term working class included all those obliged to work for a living). Another of Marx's categories, the lumpenproletariat (lumpen meaning "rags"), comprised marginal and unemployable workers, paupers, beggars, and criminals. Marxian theory predicted a transitional phase between the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of communism during which a "dictatorship of the proletariat" would suppress resistance to the socialist revolution by the bourgeoisie, destroy the social relations of production underlying the class system, and create a new, classless society.
* * *the lowest or one of the lowest economic and social classes in a society.In ancient Rome the proletariat consisted of the poor landless freemen. It included artisans and small tradesmen who had been gradually impoverished by the extension of slavery. The proletariat (literally meaning “producers of offspring”) was the lowest rank among Roman citizens; the first recognition of its status was traditionally ascribed to the Roman king Servius Tullius (fl. 6th century BC). In some periods of Roman history it played an important role, not as as an independent force but as a mass following, in the political struggles between the Roman patricians and the wealthy plebeians. Because it had little opportunity for productive work, which was performed in the main by slaves, its existence was largely parasitic on the Roman economy. On occasions it was quieted by doles of bread from the state and diverted by spectacles—“bread and circuses.”In the theory of Karl Marx (Marx, Karl), the term proletariat designated the class of wage workers who were engaged in industrial production and whose chief source of income was derived from the sale of their labour power. As an economic category it was distinguished in Marxian literature from the poor, the working classes, and the Lumpenproletariat. Because of its subordinate position in a capitalist society and the effects of periodic depressions on wages and employment, the proletariat as described by Marxists was usually living in poverty. But it was not therefore identified with the poor, for some members of the proletariat, the highly skilled or labour aristocracy, were recognized as not poor, and some members of the entrepreneurial class were not wealthy. Despite synonymous use in agitational literature, the term proletariat was distinguished from the working class as a generic term. The former referred to those engaged in industrial production, whereas the latter referred to all who must work for their living and who received wages or salary, including agricultural labourers, white-collar workers, and hired help occupied in the distribution services. The Lumpenproletariat consisted of marginal and unemployable workers of debased or irregular habits and also included paupers, beggars, and criminals.
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