[Marxism] Petit-bourgeoisie

Tom O'Lincoln suarsos at alphalink.com.au
Fri Aug 13 20:30:15 MDT 2004

A couple more things on this.

1. Amongst the various middle layers between bourgeosie and proletariat
(ack, more foreign terms!) we could include the labour bureaucracy and
Labor MPs. However people at the very top of the labour leadership
(like, say, Tony Blair) probably belong in the ruling class. Amongst the
"new middle class" we should probably include the higher levels of
academia, despite academics not being a new category (because they are
in a new situation, with the lower levels clearly being

2. I'm pasting in below a passage spelling out some categories as I see
them. They're from the introduction to Rick Kuhn and Tom O'Lincoln
(eds), Class and Class Conflict in Australia, Longman Australia,
Melbourne 1996:


In this book we define the capitalist class (or bourgeoisie) as those
who own or control productive resources and employ people to bring it
into use. The working class (or the proletariat), is made up of people
whose only means of making a living is to sell their ability to work to
an employer. This includes those dependent on a wage, the spouses and
children, or workers who are not themselves in paid employment.
Unemployed workers unable to get a job because there is not enough paid
work available and who therefore have to try to survive on meagre social
security payments are also part of the working class.

Not everyone in the Australian work force is, however, either a boss or
a worker. There are a number of middle layers sharing some
characteristics with capitalists and others with the majority of wage
earners. The traditional middle class (or petty bourgeoisie) own small
amounts of productive resources. Often their ownership of a truck, a
shop, computers  or production equipment is limited by heavy
indebtedness. Unlike capitalists, members of the petty bourgeoisie are
primarily dependent on their own labour, perhaps aided by family or a
small number of employees. Some professionals, independent solicitors,
accountants and doctors operate in a similar way.

Many writers  also distinguish a ‘new middle class’: diverse groups of
employees of large organisations in a hierarchy of senior supervisors,
professionals and middle managers. Specialised professionals, engineers,
lawyers or accountants in such bureaucracies may have considerable
autonomy in their work. Some professionals and other supervisors have
power over subordinates and limited rights to decide how productive
resources are used. But they don’t participate in major decisions about
levels of employment, large scale transactions or the kind of business
their organisation is in.

All of the employees of a large business or government department, from
cleaners, through technicians, team leaders and managers to the chief
executive officer may get their income in the form of a salary. But this
is much less important in shaping their lives and, generally the level
of their income, than their role in production: whether they essentially
do what they are told at one extreme or make the key decisions and give
the most important orders at the other.

[On the "new middle class" see A. Callinicos and C. Harman, The changing
working class: Essays on class structure today, Bookmarks, London, 1987
and C. Carchedi, ‘The economic identification of the new middle class’,
Economic and Society, 4 (1) 1975.]

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