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In Marxism, proletarianization is the social process whereby people move from being either an employer, unemployed or self-employed, to being employed as wage labor by an employer. In Marxist theory, proletarianisation is often seen as the most important form of downward social mobility.
For Marx, the process of proletarianization was the other side of capital accumulation. The growth of capital meant the growth of the working class. The expansion of capitalist markets involved processes of primitive accumulation and privatisation, which transferred more and more assets into capitalist private property, and concentrated wealth in fewer and fewer hands. Therefore, an increasing mass of the population was reduced to dependence on wage labour for income, i.e. they had to sell their labour power to an employer for a wage or salary because they lacked assets or other sources of income. The materially-based contradictions within capitalist society would foster revolution. Marx believed the proletariat would eventually overthrow the bourgeoisie as the 'last class in history'. Marxism is the founding base of communism.
In modern capitalism
The classic historical study of proletarianization is E.P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class (1963), in which the author portrays the meanings, struggles and conditions of an emerging proletariat.
In most countries, entitlement to unemployment benefits is conditional on actively looking for work, and that means people, assuming they are not sick, are compelled to seek employment either as salaried worker or as self-employed worker.
Geographically and historically, the process of proletarianization is closely associated to urbanization because it has often involved the migration of people from rural areas where they engaged in subsistence farming, family farming and share-cropping to the cities and towns, in search of waged work and income in an office or factory (see rural flight).
- Karl Marx, Das Kapital.
- E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
- Hal Draper, Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution, Vol 2: The Politics of Social Classes. New York: Monthly Review Press.
- Ernest Mandel, Workers under Neo-capitalism
- Barbrook, Richard (2006). The Class of the New (paperback ed.). London: OpenMute. ISBN 0-9550664-7-6.