The definition of Working Class

What is the "working class"?
If you read any source other Marx or Lenin you are likely to wind up confused and misinformed.
Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin made it extremely simple to understand.

"Classes are large groups of people differing from each other by the place they occupy in a historically determined system of social production, by their relation (in most cases fixed and formulated by law) to the means of production, by their role in the social organisation of labour, and, consequently, by the dimensions of the share of social wealth of which they dispose and their mode of acquiring it". (Vladimir I. Lenin: 'A Great Beginning: Heroism of the Workers in the Rear: 'Communist Subbotniks' in: 'Collected Works', Volume 29; Moscow; 1965; p. 421).

To Marxist-Leninists, therefore, the class to which a person belongs is determined by objective reality, not by someone's opinion.

On the basis of the above definition, Marxist-Leninists distinguish three basic classes in 19th century Britain:
"There are three great social groups, whose members... live on wages, profit and ground rent respectively". (Karl Marx: 'Capital: A Critique of Political Economy', Volume 3; Moscow; 1971; p. 886).

These three basic classes are 1) the proletariat or working class, 2) the bourgeoisie or capitalist class and 3) the landlord class, respectively.

A person's social class is determined not by the amount of his wealth, but by the source of his income.
Thus Kevin Durant may get paid $30 million, but he still calls someone far wealthier "boss" who can fire him for any/no reason. So he's working class.
Someone who owns six houses and lives on the rent may only make $80K a year, but he/she isn't working class. The landlord has different and conflicting economic interests than the worker.
Side note, the landlord/rentier class of Marx's day now includes large owners or debt, like Treasuries.

Marx's definitions are simple, logical, and measurable.

...and then there is every other source for the definition of working class.
Take this example.

Who is the working class?

As with any attempt to group Americans by class, there is no easy or commonly accepted definition. A recent report (an example of the flurry of activity and concern centered on this group) published by Opportunity America, the American Enterprise Institute (where I work) and the Brookings Institution offers a reasonable answer.

It defines the working class as consisting of adults between the ages of 25 and 64, who have graduated from high school but who have not completed a four-year college degree, and whose annual household income is greater than that of the bottom 20 percent of the population, but less than the median. For a household with two adults and one child, this amounts to annual income between roughly $30,000 and $69,000.

This is a "reasonable answer"?!? On what planet?
The measurements are arbitrary and based on nothing but someone's opinion.
Actually there is a "easy or commonly accepted definition", but capitalists cannot self-examine.
The point is that by taking this random and bizarre definition of "working class" you can come up with conclusions like these:

Given the data, the outsized influence the working class is currently exerting on the policy debate is all the more odd...
By definition, its members are not poor, and by important metrics they are faring better than the poor. They are not helpless victims of economic change, and should not be treated or discussed as such.

The whole point of ignoring the logical definition of working class is to confuse.
The most common and accepted way to do this is the capitalist creation of a fictional class - the middle class.

The terms “middle class” and “working class” are often used interchangeably, but the latter has increasingly become understood as a political identity. The concrete difference between the two often comes down to education. Working class individuals are generally non-college educated, while those in the middle class are more likely to be college graduates.

So the difference is education then?
So what does it mean if you select the wrong major in college and wind up working at Starbucks? Are you still middle class?
Once again this is nothing but a biased opinion because no one wants to approach the subject honestly.

Oftentimes the only common ground between middle- and working-class people is that they both labor at the behest of their bosses and others further up the class hierarchy.

You say that like it isn't obviously the most important thing!
People like to pretend this isn't important...until a financial crash hits. Then the reality of your employment situation becomes crystal clear.

Finally there are the liberals who's primary purpose to exist is to divide the working class against itself.

Take McCaskill’s quote from an interview this week with the New York Times. McCaskill told the Time’s Daily podcast about an encounter with a “good ‘ol boy” after the 2016 election who claimed to be an ex-Democrat who refused to vote for Hillary Clinton. According to McCaskill, the man said “I knew she (Clinton) cared about women, Mexicans, and homosexuals. But I sure knew she didn’t give a s**t about me.”

The quote oozes self-pity, but it fits perfectly with what separate studies from the University of Pennsylvania, UCLA, Princeton, the University of California, the University of Washington, and at least a half-dozen others have concluded: Trump’s support was driven by whites, especially the white working class, and their fear of losing status in an America steadily becoming more diverse in almost every way.

Or maybe when you spend all of your time talking about various identity groups, while intentionally not talking about whites, you are sending a clear message. Put another way, the guy was 100% correct.
OTOH, when a candidate like Bernie talks about Medicare For All, it is by definition For All, and thus polls well with both working class whites and working class minorities.

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Comments

Azazello's picture

Which side of the paycheck do you sign?

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@Azazello
Then there is the Chris Rock take on it

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people straddle those boundaries. Your example of Kevin Durant is illustrative: I guarantee you that KD has 10s, if not 100s, of millions of dollars in investments. Eventually, if not already, the payoff of those investments will exceed any salary he will be making. Moreover, the reality is that KD "works" entirely by his own choice, which puts him in a very, very different class from somebody who will be living in the street by the end of the month if they don't get paid every week.

Somewhere between the two are the "middle-class" types who work for a monthly paycheck, but look forward to a retirement that will be financed by the "profit" earned from money invested in their 401k accounts.

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The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01, a Boeing 757 (AA Flight 77) flew into the Pentagon.
If you can't accept these indisputable facts, I can't fake an interest in your opinions about anything else.

@UntimelyRippd
only means that there is still some social mobility.
It's doesn't weaken the case for the definitions of the words.

At least that's my $0.02

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@gjohnsit
there's a false expectation that everyone with a "decent" white collar job will eventually get to live out their days as members (lower-end, though) of the bourgeois class.

Beyond that, the distinction between profiteer and rentier is dicey, because plenty of small entrepreneurs -- which is to say, conspicuously bourgeois types -- derive their income from real estate investments. I suppose that's always been true, really.

I just don't think it's that easy to carve up the sources of income into easy categories.

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The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01, a Boeing 757 (AA Flight 77) flew into the Pentagon.
If you can't accept these indisputable facts, I can't fake an interest in your opinions about anything else.

@UntimelyRippd
Let me put it another way.

Think of water at different temperatures.
At one temperature it is ice. At another it is water. At another it is vapor.
At freezing and boiling it's state can be mixed. Yet science doesn't say that you can't define the state of water because of marginal uncertainty.

Let's say someone starts out as a farm-hand, gets a great idea and becomes a wealthy businessman, then sells off his business and retires on his returns from bonds and rental properties. At each stage that person's class is mixed.
That doesn't mean that working class, capitalists, and rentier are all one thing, and impossible to distinguish.

As for self-identification, that's a personal thing.
But if you are uncertain, consider how you'll identify if you get laid off tomorrow.

Marx also acknowledged subclasses such as the petty bourgeois and the lumpen proletariat

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@UntimelyRippd @UntimelyRippd middle class. They identify with the middle class but aren't.

By the above M-L definition a corporate CEO is working class as are all other management types. They really should be considered middle class or a new definition "managerial class". Their attitudes and politics are distinct from blue- and white- collar workers. Then there is also the professional class, also part of the middle class. The term "middle class" has been corrupted to mean anyone who is not destitute, i.e. the underclass.
Originally the middle class was everyone between the Aristocracy and the peasantry.
White blue-collar workers should be left-leaning and pro-union but they have been conditioned by the media to conflate Left with terrorists and confiscation and unions with corruption and the mafia. As noted above, Dems pushing against "old white men" calling them racist and deplorables have driven them to the Right, right into the hands of their old nemesis, the conservatives.

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jwa13's picture

... of "class" and politics in the U.S. without considering John Steinbeck's well-known observation:

"Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires."

Working-class Americans thus see themselves as members of a classless society (pretty much); while the reality of societal organization within which the working class strives is far different.

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When Cicero had finished speaking, the people said “How well he spoke”.
When Demosthenes had finished speaking, the people said “Let us march”.

And everyone else as their slaves.

The South won the Civil War.

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The Liberal Moonbat's picture

What about movie stars? What about directors? What about people (Seth MacFarlane, for example) who do it all in showbiz?

What about college professors?

What about people who depend on government assistance?

What about artisans and artists (particularly rich celebrity artists like Picasso)?

What about these people who manage to come out of nowhere and become millionaires by way of YouTube?

What about heirs to fortunes who will never need to work ("windfalls" don't really fit as "wages", "profits", or "rent")?

What about criminals (organized crime easily fits into the mentioned categories, I'm talking about the 'self-employed')?

What about beggars?

Heck, what about Bilbo Baggins's treasure or Magneto's re-appropriated Nazi gold or the handful of characters who survived to the end of Treasure Island? Where would they fit in?

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“Remember, when the emperor looks naked, the emperor IS naked. The truth and the lie are *not* 'sort of the same thing'.” — Daria Morgendorffer

Big Al's picture

like Lebron James and Michael Jordan and probably a whole host of future and current NBA players, and you're calling him working class? I don't care how you try to justify that, it's flat out wrong. I don't think Marx or Lenin envisioned or described the situation we face now.

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