Article

Proletariat (Working Class)

Yunus Kaya

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0089
Proletariat (Working Class)

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The prevalence of wage labor has been a defining characteristic of modern societies. Following the Industrial Revolution, the people who sold their labor for survival in the newly emerging modern societies were usually labeled as the “working class” or the “proletariat.” Originally used by Romans to label citizens with very little or no property, the term “proletariat” was adopted by Karl Marx to categorize the working class in the newly industrialized European societies, and since then the two terms have been used interchangeably. The initial dominance of industrial work made the working class synonymous with manual work. However, as service-sector employment expanded and the number of people employed in white-collar occupations increased, the definition of “working class” also changed. Today, although there are serious debates and disagreements about the definition of “working class,” or even its very existence, many scholars define the term as comprising people who earn their living through wage labor, who do not own any assets or capital, and who do not possess workplace authority. Over the years, scholars have argued that working classes differ from the rest of the societies they belong to with their politics, culture, family structures, and the conditions they live in. However, it is also not possible to talk about a single and unified working class in any society, as working classes are divided through the lines of gender, race, and ethnicity. Today, working classes all over the world are struggling with the challenges of globalization and new technologies, although the specific challenges they face differ in developed and less developed countries.

Article.  10149 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

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