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Who Are The Workers?

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Chapter Summary

This chapter focuses on explaining a realistic, broadened concept of the working class. It starts with a constructive critique of Marx' definition of the working class. Marx is used as a starting point for two reasons: he is still an important source of inspiration for scholars around the world, and, in spite of several weaknesses, his analysis is still the best we have. Marx regarded the capitalist mode of production as the consequence of the commodification of labor power, means of production and raw materials, and labor products. Marxian orthodoxy distinguished five main subaltern classes or semi-classes in capitalism: the free wage laborers, petty bourgeoisie, self-employed, slaves, and the lumpenproletarians. The chapter indicates that the boundaries between free" wage laborers and other kinds of subaltern workers in capitalist society are in reality rather finely graded or vague. Almost all subaltern workers belong to households that combine several modes of labor.

Keywords: capitalism; labor power commodification; Marxian orthodoxy; subaltern workers; working class

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