What is the Difference Between the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat?
Bourgeoisie is understood as the ruling class, owner of the means of production, raw materials and holders of financial capital. The proletariat, on the other hand, represents the working class, which only owns its own labor force.
This distinction is made on the basis of Marxist doctrine. For Karl Marx, throughout history, humanity developed from the antagonism between a ruling class and a class of individuals exploited by it. This he called the class struggle.
In modernity, the class struggle takes its current form. For Marx, capitalist society is marked by the tension between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
Bourgeoisie vs Proletariat : The Differences
|Meaning||Economically dominant class through ownership of the means of production and control of social life.||Working class, owner only of its workforce, also understood as the oppressed or dominated class.|
|Origin||In the Middle Ages, merchants constituted a specific social stratum, possessors of capital without the hereditary benefits of the nobility.||In the Roman Empire, the term proletarii was used as a reference to the lower class whose function was to generate children for the growth of the empire.|
|Example||Large businessmen, bankers, industrialists, landowners, etc.||Salaried workers, factory workers, service providers, state servants, small traders, etc.|
It is worth remembering that non-Marxist theories will hardly use this definition and class division proposed by Marx. The use of this distinction presupposes an adherence to Marxist thought.
What is the Bourgeoisie?
According to Karl Marx, the bourgeoisie is “the class of modern capitalists, owners of the means of production and employers of wage labor”. The means of production are understood as: properties, raw material, machinery and structures for the realization of the product.
This social class dominates finance capital and, consequently, controls the state and cultural production, thus controlling all aspects of social life.
The term has its origins in the Middle Ages, the cities called burgos, built a new social class composed of merchants and liberal professionals. This class was superior to the serfs, but with less power than the nobility.
The rise of the bourgeoisie culminated in the bourgeois revolutions and the end of the Middle Ages. With the change in the mode of production, economic power assumes the central role in defining what is produced and valued in society. Capital accumulation takes the place of heredity to define the holders of control of society.
Thus, the bourgeoisie constituted itself in opposition to the working class, in a relationship between the owners of the means of production and the owners of the labor force.
Unlike other periods of history, as it is defined only by accumulated capital, the capitalist system creates a greater possibility of mobility between classes.
On the other hand, there is also the proletarianization of part of the bourgeois class, with difficulties in maintaining the economic standards built over time. These phenomena generate the development of an intermediate class, which preserves aspects of both the bourgeoisie and the proletarian class.
The growth of this middle class defined by Marx as the “small bourgeoisie”, observed throughout the 20th century, generates a complexification of the definition of social classes and the idea of class struggle.
In any case, contemporary authors tend to define the bourgeoisie as the social group that holds the means of production and/or the largest portion of economic capital.
What is the Proletariat?
The proletariat represents the working class or working class. They are those who only own their workforce and the products acquired through their sale as well.
The term proletariat is derived from the Latin “proletarii“, used to designate a class of people who fulfilled the social function of having children (offspring), for the development and growth of the Roman Empire.
The term was rescued in Marxist theory to designate the class of workers that, through social reproduction, founds capitalism generating profit from its exploitation. This profit is understood as exploitation because it takes place through a process called “surplus value“.
The added value is unpaid work. The worker, responsible for transforming raw material into consumer goods, does not receive a proportional payment for the work performed. The value of work goes far beyond the salary paid to the worker. This is the fundamental structure of the profit acquired by the bourgeoisie and it also defines the class of the exploited, the proletariat.
Thus, the proletariat is the subordinate class exploited by the bourgeoisie. As it does not own the means of production, for its survival it needs to adapt to the wage labor stipulated and defined by the bourgeois class.