Bourgeoisie and Proletariat

This essay was written by Celine Qin on the 27th of September, 2021.

The bourgeoisie and the proletariat are two classes characterized under the capitalist mode of production, based on their relation to the means of production.

A mode of production is the combination of the productive forces (labor power and the means of production) and relations of production (often referred to as the relation between social classes and between people and the objects of their work). The means of production, or productive property, are what is used to create goods to be sold. This is commonly visualized as the raw materials, facilities, machinery and tools, and other privately owned property.

In this essay, we are going to be focusing on the capitalist mode of production, a system based on private and individual ownership, a societal framework based entirely on profit as a seed for greed and exploitation.

Under the capitalist mode of production, the means of production can be privately owned by what is called the bourgeoisie, or the capitalist class. The bourgeoisie is primarily composed of extremely wealthy individuals, who own and control their property in order to accumulate profit. Picture Mark Zuckerberg, or Jeff Bezos, or Elon Musk; These are a few examples of people in the ruling, capitalist class. This population is small, yet yields immense power in nearly all aspects of modern life. Often, the bourgeoisie is called the “one percent.”

There is another, larger, group of people with a different relation to the means of production. These are the people who work, but do not own, the tools, the materials, the factories and facilities. These are the people who input their labor but do not have rights to their fruits. These are the people who work under the control of capitalist class, allowing the bourgeoisie to grow richer.

This is the proletariat, the working class. The proletariat works the means of production, selling their labor to a capitalist, in exchange for a wage. This wage is always lower than the full value of the worker’s labor, thus allowing the capitalist to turn a profit. Examples of proletarians would be staff and employees of a large corporation, such as Walmart or McDonald’s, factory and office workers, postal carriers, Uber drivers, doctors, some lawyers, cashier clerks, and nearly every worker in an institution or business in capitalist society. The proletariat make up most of the population.

Since the capitalist mode of production has practically dominated the economical, social, and political landscape of the world today, the proletariat is a massive class.

Given that this system (capitalism) that allows private ownership of productive property, and the requirement of having access to a large pool of exploitable bodies, it is necessary for the capitalist mode of production to have a huge imbalance between the number of owners and the number of workers. Through exploitation, more and more wealth will gather in the hands of a few as more and more people will struggle to manage the much shorter end of the stick.

However, the material conditions can vary dramatically among the large proletarian class. Access to food, water, technology, education, and healthcare for one person of the proletariat can be an entirely different circumstance for another person who is also a proletarian. This can be discussed as income inequality. You may have heard of terms such as “lower middle class” or “upper middle class” or “lower class,” used to label these differences.

We should not neglect the difference in material conditions between members of the proletariat, nor should we allow these differences to form deeper antagonisms against one another. Instead, we should acknowledge this and center the conversation on class solidarity and cooperation, providing material support to those with circumstances the worse of. One common oppression that all proletarians face is exploitation, the stolen value of labor, from the bourgeoisie, and dismantling this system of exploitation is a shared interest.

When we talk about class struggle, or the conflict between the working class and ruling class within capitalist society, we are aiming for the goal of seizing the means of production. Fulfilling this objective will allow for a redirection in production, to produce and meet the people’s needs instead of capitalist needs, and restoring our world with justice and equity. It means a redistribution of wealth and resources, not just between classes in Amerika, but to the Global South and other parts of the world that have grappled, and are still grappling with, colonial and imperial conquest from the bourgeoisie. Now more than ever, humanity depends on revolution and resistance against those who have oppressed the people for far too long.

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