working class

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working class
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{{For|the TV series|Working Class (TV series)}}{{short description|Social class composed of members of the society employed in lower tier jobs}}{{more citations needed|date=July 2015}}File:Construction Workers.jpg|thumb|right|working class, a term of great importance in sociology and politicspoliticsThe working class (or labouring class) comprises those engaged in waged or salaried labour, especially in manual-labour occupations and industrial work.WEB,weblink WORKING CLASS {{!, definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary||language=en-US|access-date=2019-05-01}}WEB, working class,weblink Oxford Dictionaries, 8 May 2014, Working-class occupations (see also "Designation of workers by collar color") include blue-collar jobs, some white-collar jobs, and most pink-collar jobs. Members of the working class rely for their income exclusively upon their earnings from wage labour; thus, according to the more inclusive definitions, the category can include almost all of the working population of industrialized economies, as well as those employed in the urban areas (cities, towns, villages) of non-industrialized economies or in the rural workforce.In Marxist theory and socialist literature, the term working class is often used interchangeably with the term proletariat and includes all workers who expend both physical and mental labour (salaried knowledge workers and white-collar workers) to produce economic value for the owners of the means of production (the bourgeoisie in Marxist literature).WEB, Glaberman, Martin, Martin Glaberman, 1975, Marxist Views of the Working Class,weblink The Working Class and Social Change, 18 January 2013, Marxists Internet Archive,


As with many terms describing social class, working class is defined and used in many different ways. The most general definition, used by Marxists and many socialists, is that the working class includes all those who have nothing to sell but their labour power and skills. In that sense it includes both white and blue-collar workers, manual and mental workers of all types, excluding only individuals who derive their income from business ownership and the labour of others.{{sfn|McKibbin|2000|p=164}}{{verification needed|date=November 2018}}When used non-academically in the United States, however, it often refers to a section of society dependent on physical labour, especially when compensated with an hourly wage. For certain types of science, as well as less scientific or journalistic political analysis. For example, the working class is loosely defined as those without college degrees.NEWS, Edsall, Thomas B., Thomas B. Edsall, 17 June 2012, Canaries in the Coal Mine,weblink limited, Campaign Stops, The New York Times, June 18, 2012, Working-class occupations are then categorized into four groups: unskilled labourers, artisans, outworkers, and factory workers.{{sfn|Doob|2013}}{{page needed|date=November 2018}}A common alternative, {{citation needed span |date=November 2018 |text=sometimes used in sociology,}} is to define class by income levels.{{sfn|Linkon|1999|p=4}} When this approach is used, the working class can be contrasted with a so-called middle class on the basis of differential terms of access to economic resources, education, cultural interests, and other goods and services. The cut-off between working class and middle class here might mean the line where a population has discretionary income, rather than simply sustenance (for example, on fashion versus merely nutrition and shelter).Some researchers have suggested that working-class status should be defined subjectively as self-identification with the working-class group.{{sfn|Rubin|Denson|Kilpatrick|Matthews|2014}}{{page needed|date=November 2018}} This subjective approach allows people, rather than researchers, to define their own social class.

History and growth

File:Victorian Bishopgate.jpg|thumb|Working-class life in Victorian Wetherby, West Riding of YorkshireWest Riding of YorkshireIn feudal Europe, the working class as such did not exist in large numbers. Instead, most people were part of the labouring class, a group made up of different professions, trades and occupations. A lawyer, craftsman and peasant were all considered to be part of the same social unit, a third estate of people who were neither aristocrats nor church officials. Similar hierarchies existed outside Europe in other pre-industrial societies. The social position of these labouring classes was viewed as ordained by natural law and common religious belief. This social position was contested, particularly by peasants, for example during the German Peasants' War.{{sfn|Abendroth|1973}}{{page needed|date=November 2018}}In the late 18th century, under the influence of the Enlightenment, European society was in a state of change, and this change could not be reconciled with the idea of a changeless god-created social order. Wealthy members of these societies created ideologies which blamed many of the problems of working-class people on their morals and ethics (i.e. excessive consumption of alcohol, perceived laziness and inability to save money). In The Making of the English Working Class, E. P. Thompson argues that the English working class was present at its own creation, and seeks to describe the transformation of pre-modern labouring classes into a modern, politically self-conscious, working class.{{sfn|Abendroth|1973}}{{verification needed|date=November 2018}}WEB,weblink Thompson: The Making of the English Working Class — Faculty of History,,, en, 2019-05-01, Starting around 1917, a number of countries became ruled ostensibly in the interests of the working class (see Soviet working class). Some historians have noted that a key change in these Soviet-style societies has been a massive a new type of proletarianization, often effected by the administratively achieved forced displacement of peasants and rural workers. Since then, four major industrial states have turned towards semi-market-based governance (China, Laos, Vietnam, Cuba), and one state has turned inwards into an increasing cycle of poverty and brutalization (North Korea). Other states of this sort have collapsed (such as the Soviet Union).{{sfn|Kuromiya|1990|p=87}}Since 1960, large-scale proletarianization and enclosure of commons has occurred in the third world, generating new working classes. Additionally, countries such as India have been slowly undergoing social change, expanding the size of the urban working class.{{sfn|Gutkind|1988}}{{page needed|date=November 2018}}

Marxist definition: the proletariat

File:battle strike 1934.jpg|thumb|Striking teamsters battling police on the streets of Minneapolis, MinnesotaMinnesotaKarl Marx defined the working class or proletariat as individuals who sell their labour power for wages and who do not own the means of production. He argued that they were responsible for creating the wealth of a society. He asserted that the working class physically build bridges, craft furniture, grow food, and nurse children, but do not own land, or factories.{{sfn|Lebowitz|2016}}{{page needed|date=November 2018}}A sub-section of the proletariat, the lumpenproletariat (rag-proletariat), are the extremely poor and unemployed, such as day labourers and homeless people. Marx considered them to be devoid of class consciousness.In The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels argued that it was the destiny of the working class to displace the capitalist system, with the dictatorship of the proletariat (the rule of the many, as opposed to the "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie"), abolishing the social relationships underpinning the class system and then developing into a future communist society in which "the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all." The Communist Manifesto was a response to Adam Smith's pro capitalist text The Wealth of NationsWEB,weblink The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith Institute, en-GB, 2019-05-01, (published in 1776). Some issues in Marxist arguments about working-class membership have included:
  • The class status of people in a temporary or permanent position of unemployment.
  • The class status of domestic labour, particularly the children (see child labour), and also traditionally the wives of male workers, as some spouses do not themselves work in paying jobs outside the home.
  • Whether workers can be considered working class if they own personal property or small amounts of stock ownership.
  • The relationships among peasants, rural smallholders, and the working class.
  • The extent to which non-class group identities and politics (race, gender, et al.) can obviate or substitute for working-class membership in Enlightenment projects, where working-class membership is prohibitively contradictory or obfuscated.
Possible responses to some of these issues are:
  • Unemployed workers are proletariat.
  • Class for dependents is determined by the primary income earner.
  • Personal property is argued to be different from private property. For example, the proletariat can own automobiles; this is personal property.
  • The self-employed worker may be a member of the petite bourgeoisie (for example, a small store owner who controls little capital), or a de facto member of the proletariat (for example, a contract worker whose income may be relatively high, but is precarious and tied to the need to sell one's labour on the labour market).
In general, in Marxist terms wage labourers and those dependent on the welfare state are working class, and those who live on accumulated capital are not. This broad dichotomy defines the class struggle. Different groups and individuals may at any given time be on one side or the other. Such contradictions of interests and identity within individuals' lives and within communities can effectively undermine the ability of the working class to act in solidarity to reduce exploitation, inequality, and the role of ownership in determining people's life chances, work conditions, and political power.

See also

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BOOK, Abendroth, Wolfgang, Wolfgang Abendroth, 1973, A Short History of the European Working Class, harv
BOOK, Doob, Christopher B., 2013, Social Inequality and Social Stratification in US Society, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, Pearson Education, 978-0-205-79241-2, harv
BOOK, 1988, Gutkind, Peter C. W., Third Worlds Workers: Comparative International Labour Studies, International Studies in Sociology and Social Anthropology, 49, Leiden, Netherlands, E.J. Brill, 978-90-04-08788-0, 0074-8684, harv
BOOK, Kuromiya, Hiroaki, 1990, Stalin's Industrial Revolution: Politics and Workers, 1928–1931, harv
BOOK, Lebowitz, Michael A., 2016, Beyond Capital: Marx's Political Economy of the Working Class, harv
BOOK, Linkon, Sherry Lee, 1999, Introduction, Linkon, Sherry Lee, Teaching Working Class, Amherst, Massachusetts, University of Massachusetts Press, 1ff, 978-1-55849-188-5, harv
BOOK, McKibbin, Ross, Ross McKibbin, 2000, Classes and Cultures: England, 1918–1951, harv
JOURNAL, Rubin, Mark, Denson, Nida, Kilpatrick, Sue, Matthews, Kelly E., Stehlik, Tom, Zyngier, David, 2014, 'I Am Working-Class': Subjective Self-Definition as a Missing Measure of Social Class and Socioeconomic Status in Higher Education Research, Educational Researcher, 43, 4, 196–200, 10.3102/0013189X14528373, 1935-102X, harv,weblink

Further reading

BOOK, Benson, John, 2003, The Working Class in Britain, 1850–1939, London, I.B. Tauris, 978-1-86064-902-8
MAGAZINE, Blackledge, Paul, 2011, Why Workers Can Change the World,weblink Socialist Review, 364, London, 20 November 2018
BOOK, Connell, Raewyn, Raewyn Connell, Irving, Terry, 1980, Class Structure in Australian History, Melbourne, Longman Cheshire, harv, Class Structure in Australian History
BOOK, Engels, Friedrich, Friedrich Engels, 1968, The Condition of the Working Class in England, Henderson, W. O., Chaloner, W. H., Stanford, California, Stanford University Press, 978-0-8047-0634-6
BOOK, Miles, Andrew, Savage, Mike, Michael Savage (sociologist), 1994, The Remaking of the British Working Class, 1840–1940, London, Routledge, 978-1-134-90681-9
BOOK, Moran, William, 2002, Belles of New England: The Women of the Textile Mills and the Families Whose Wealth They Wove, New York, Thomas Dunne Books, 978-0-312-30183-5
JOURNAL, Raine, April Janise, 2011, Lifestyles of the Not So Rich and Famous: Ideological Shifts in Popular Culture, Reagan-Era Sitcoms and Portrayals of the Working Class,weblink McNair Scholars Research Journal, 7, 1, 63–78, 20 November 2018
BOOK, Rose, Jonathan, 2010, The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, 2nd, New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University Press, 978-0-300-15365-1
BOOK, Rubin, Lillian B., Lillian B. Rubin, 1976, Worlds of Pain: Life in the Working Class Family, New York, Basic Books, 978-0-465-09724-1
BOOK, Rowntree, Seebohm, Seebohm Rowntree, 1901, 2000, (Poverty: A Study of Town Life), Macmillan and Co., 1-86134-202-0
JOURNAL, Sheehan, Steven T., 2010, 'Pow! Right in the Kisser': Ralph Kramden, Jackie Gleason, and the Emergence of the Frustrated Working‐Class Man, Journal of Popular Culture, 43, 3, 564–582, 10.1111/j.1540-5931.2010.00758.x, 1540-5931
BOOK, Shipler, David K., David K. Shipler, 2004, The Working Poor: Invisible in America, New York, Knopf, 978-0-375-40890-8, The Working Poor
BOOK, Skeggs, Beverley, Beverley Skeggs, 2004, Class, Self, Culture, London, Routledge, 978-0-415-30086-5
BOOK, Thompson, E. P., E. P. Thompson, 1968, The Making of the English Working Class, rev., Harmondsworth, England, Penguin Books, The Making of the English Working Class
BOOK, Turner, Katherine Leonard, 2014, How the Other Half Ate: A History of Working-Class Meals at the Turn of the Century, Berkeley, California, University of California Press, 978-0-520-27758-8
BOOK, Zweig, Michael, 2001, Working Class Majority: America's Best Kept Secret, Ithaca, New York, Cornell University Press, 978-0-8014-8727-9

External links

{{Wiktionary}} {{Social class}}{{Use British English Oxford spelling|date=November 2018}}{{Use dmy dates|date=November 2018}}

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