I suspect that today’s average leftist or socialist has left a bunch of Karl Marx’ writings unread. The big thing to remember is that Karl spent a lot of years studying capitalism, identified a lot of systemic inequities, then proposed communism as an alternative. Since the closest thing to his proposed communism at the time was the utopian socialist agenda, and utopian socialism wasn’t a major player, he didn’t have a lot of examples of the inequities that occur under socialism.
I tend to look at things from a demographic perspective – and I do use Marx’ Social Conflict Paradigm. As we look at Marx’ terms, and attempt to fit them in with today’s political parties, we find a spot where his structure doesn’t match today’s parties.
Karl had divisions among the Bourgeoisie – the haute bourgeoisie and the petit bourgeoise. Marx expected the concentration and centralization of capital would, sooner or later, put the petit bourgeoisie into the ranks of the working class (like the peasants would become the proletariat regardless of their attachment to the land. The petit bourgeoisie basically hired laborers and worked alongside them. The haute bourgeoisie on the other hand, didn’t work alongside the wage slaves they hired.
So if I look at the folks who drive the game, Soros, Gates, Musk, Zuckenberg, Dorsey, Pelosi, etc. qualify as haute bourgeoisie, while Rand Paul as an MD is a great example of the petit bourgeoisie. I think Donald Trump might be a better fit as a petit bourgeoisie than as one of the haute bourgeoisie – the top cutoff line is definitely well above a million dollars.
The difference between the proletariat and the lumpenproletariat is the difference between the skilled and semi-skilled workforce and the chronically unemployed. Marx studied capitalism – but, born in Prussia in 1818, lived under the late stages of feudalism instead of something more similar to our system where votes select the leadership. The university system at the time was just beginning to break away from church dominance – Marx hypothesized about a more ideal social system during a time of tremendous social change. There is a bit of irony in the fact that Karl Marx could complete a Ph.D. but never hold a job other than journalism. We live in a time when many, like Marx, are highly educated but do not find particularly great employment.
Marx saw the haute bourgeoisie, the petit bourgeoisie, the proletariat, and the lumpenproletariat. He didn’t foresee the emergence of a highly educated class that crossed into all those four groups. That intelligentsia with minimal capital is a fifth group that screws up Marx’ hypothesis – largely by taking jobs in the bureaucracies of government and education. Max Weber studied bureaucracies after Marx died. To understand Marx, we need to remember he wrote hypothetically of a world that he understood largely from his studies of capitalism. The new educated class may not have the property to fit well with the petit bourgeoisie, but they give orders and make good incomes.
So if we look at today’s politics, we see the left, the left – as home to an alliance of haute bourgeoisie and the lumpenproletariat – something that Marx’ dialectic did not predict. While Karl did see the petit bourgeoisie learning that their best interests were shared with the proletariat, he never saw the petit bourgeoisie allying with the working class proletariats to become the dissatisfied republican voters. The educated class that Marx didn’t consider can either give orders like the petit bourgeoisie, follow orders like the proletariat workers, or be fundamentally as hard to employ as the lumpenproletariat – but they tend to identify with the left.
Some of Marx’ writings and thoughts created a solid foundation for my own work. I appreciate the good work he did. On the other hand, he died 140 years ago. There are many things he did not foresee – and a college educated proletariat subgroup is one of them. The college educated lumpenproletariat was likely even harder for Marx to envision.