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Related: class - common - culture industry - folk - industrial revolution - mass society - Marxism - popular

Contrast: bourgeois

The Fourth Estate, Il Quarto Stato (1901) - Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo

There will be a proletarian culture (a civilisation) totally different from the bourgeois one and in this field too class distinctions will be shattered. Bourgeois careerism will be shattered and there will be a poetry, a novel, a theatre, a moral code, a language, a painting and a music peculiar to proletarian civilisation, the flower and ornament of proletarian social organisation. What remains to be done? Nothing other than to destroy the present form of civilisation. In this field ‘to destroy’… means to destroy spiritual hierarchies, prejudices, idols and ossified traditions. It means not to be afraid of innovations and audacities, not to be afraid of monsters, not to believe that the world will collapse if a worker makes a grammatical mistake, if a poem limps, if a picture resembles a hoarding. --(Antonio Gramsci, ‘Marinetti the Revolutionary’, L’Ordine Nuovo, 1921)


The proletariat (from Latin proles, offspring) is a term used to identify a lower social class; a member of such a class is called a proletarian. Originally it was identified as those people who have no other wealth than their sons; the term was initially used in a derogatory sense, until Karl Marx used it as a positive term to identify what he termed the working class. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proletariat [Jun 2005]

Working class culture

Working class culture is a range of cultures created by or popular among working class people. The cultures can be contrasted with high culture and folk culture and are sometimes equated with popular culture and low culture (the counterpart of high culture).

Working class culture is extremely geographically diverse, leading some to question whether the cultures have anything in common. Many socialists with a class struggle viewpoint see its importance as arising from the proletariat they champion. Some states which claim to be Communist have declared an official working class culture, most notable socialist realism, which aims to glorify the worker. It should be noted that glorification of the worker in abstract is seldom a feature of independent working class cultures. Others socialists such as Lenin believed that there could be no authentic proletarian culture free from capitalism, nor that high culture should not be outside the experience of workers.

Working class cultures developed alongside the working class itself, during the Industrial Revolution. As most of the new proletariat were former peasants, so the cultures took on much of the localised folk culture. This was soon altered by the changed conditions of social relationships and the increased mobility of the workforce, and later by the marketing of mass-produced cultural artefacts such as prints and ornaments and events such as music hall and later cinema. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Working_class_culture [May 2005]

Bourgeois and proletarian taste

Non-economic conceptions of class
In contrast to simple income--property hierarchies, and to structural class schemes like Weber's or Marx's, there are theories of class based on other distinctions, such as culture or educational attainment. At times, social class can be related to elitism, and those in the higher class are usually known as the "social elite".

For example, Bourdieu seems to have a notion of high and low classes comparable to that of Marxism, insofar as their conditions are defined by different habitus, which is in turn defined by different objectively classifiable conditions of existence. In fact, one of the principal distinction Bourdieu makes is a distinction between bourgeois taste and the working class taste. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_class#Non-economic_conceptions_of_class [May 2005]

see also: class - taste - bourgeois - proletariat

Mass culture

T.W. Adorno was one of the first and most pungent radical critics of mass culture. In early essays on popular music in the 1930s, Adorno developed a critical methodology to analyze the production, texts, and reception of the artifacts of what became known as "popular culture," thus anticipating the approach of later forms of "cultural studies." With Max Horkheimer, he developed in Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944/1947) the first critical theory which discerned the crucial roles of mass culture and communication in contemporary capitalist societies. Emigrants from Nazi Germany, Adorno and his colleagues observed the use of mass culture in German fascism and were shocked to see in the United States the same sort of ideological culture which reproduced the existing social relations and served as propaganda for the established socio-economic and political order. -- http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/courses/ed253a/MCkellner/COOKREV.html, Douglas Kellner

Commodity fetishism [...]

Marx sees that we gain such a fetish for commodities that we give up all control. We do not control how the job is done, we do not control how the product is produced, priced, distributed or chosen, and we begin to compete as rivals for these commodities. This loss of control produces a Hegelian alienation which Marx, as a Young Hegelian, transforms into exploitation when he begins to look at the social structures that account for alienation.

Commodity fetishism is the inauthentic state of social relations, said to arise in complex capitalist market systems, where people mistake social relationships for things. The term is introduced in the opening chapter of Karl Marx's main work of political economy, Capital, (1867).

Marx's use of the term fetish can be interpreted as an ironic comment on the 'rational', 'scientific' mindset of industrial capitalist societies. In Marx's day, the word was primarily used in the study of primitive religions - Marx's Fetishism of Commodities might be seen as identifying just such primitive belief systems at the heart of modern society.

In most subsequent Marxist thought, commodity fetishism is defined as an illusion arising from the central role that private property plays in capitalism's social processes. It is a central component of the dominant ideology in capitalist societies. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodity_fetishism [May 2005]

Guy Debord on consumerism [...]

The satisfaction that no longer comes from using the commodities produced in abundance is now sought through recognition of their value as commodities. Consumers are filled with religious fervor for the sovereign freedom of commodities whose use has become an end in itself. Waves of enthusiasm for particular products are propagated by all the communications media. A film sparks a fashion craze; a magazine publicizes night spots which in turn spin off different lines of products. The proliferation of faddish gadgets reflects the fact that as the mass of commodities becomes increasingly absurd, absurdity itself becomes a commodity. Trinkets such as key chains which come as free bonuses with the purchase of some luxury product, but which end up being traded back and forth as valued collectibles in their own right, reflect a mystical self-abandonment to commodity transcendence. Those who collect the trinkets that have been manufactured for the sole purpose of being collected are accumulating commodity indulgences — glorious tokens of the commodity’s real presence among the faithful. Reified people proudly display the proofs of their intimacy with the commodity. Like the old religious fetishism, with its convulsionary raptures and miraculous cures, the fetishism of commodities generates its own moments of fervent exaltation. All this is useful for only one purpose: producing habitual submission. --Guy Debord, 1967

Image as commodity

Guy Debord was the spokesperson for the Situationists International, social critics who, in the 1960s, were the first to suggest that image was the real commodity in our society and that image would replace more traditional goods in the economy of the future. To understand image as commodity, just consider the entire world of television -- from the advertisers conflating their every product with sex, to the stars, their PR firms, and the gossip industry that makes them who we think they are. Also consider the consumer of television images and what he or she is purchasing from the couch. The Situationist concept of the "society of the spectacle" -- in which living is replaced by viewing -- maps perfectly to our culture of virtuality. The Situationists might be considered partly responsible for the smug superiority and intolerance of today's politically correct. --R.U. Sirius

Peasant rebellions

In 1534 the Anabaptists took power in the Münster Rebellion and founded a democratic proto-socialistic state. The town was recaptured in 1535; the Anabaptists were tortured to death, their dead bodies were exhibited in cages, which hung from St. Lamberti's steeple. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%FCnster [Mar 2005]

Peasant revolts
Peasant revolts were popular uprisings by European peasants against their lords and the institution of serfdom, including the 1358 Jacquerie in France, the 1381 Peasants' Revolt in England, the 1524-1526 Peasants' War in Germany and the 1573 Croatian and Slovenian peasant revolt. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peasant_revolt [Mar 2005]

Peasant revolts (2)
The [Münster] rebellion came late in the whole series of peasant rebellions which characterized the late medieval world -- indeed the time of its occurrence belongs more to the renaissance than to the middle ages. Earlier rebellions had occurred in Italy (1304-7), Flanders (1323-8), France (1356), England (1381), Northern Spain (1437) and Hungary (1514), and in Bohemia (1419-34). Germany itself had undergone earlier insurrections in 1476; in the 1490s; in 1502; in 1513; in 1514; and in 1517. None of these succeeded; all were suppressed. None was as well organized or widespread as the rebellion of 1525. --http://members.eisa.com/~ec086636/german_peasants_war.htm [Mar 2005]

Peasant war
The Peasants' War (in German, der Deutsche Bauernkrieg) was a popular revolt in Europe, specifically in the Holy Roman Empire between 1524-1526 and consisted, like the preceding Bundschuh movement and the Hussite Wars, of a mass of economic as well as religious revolts by peasants, townsfolk and nobles. The movement possessed no common programme. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Peasants%27_War [Mar 2005]

Popular revolts
Popular revolts in late medieval Europe were uprisings and rebellions by peasants in the countryside, or the bourgeois in towns, against nobles and kings during the upheavals of the 14th through early 16th centuries. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popular_revolt_in_late_medieval_Europe [Mar 2005]

The Peasant revolt in Flanders 1323-1328
The Peasant revolt in Flanders 1323-1328 was a popular revolt in late medieval Europe. Beginning as a series of scattered rural riots in late 1323, peasant insurrection escalated into a full-scale rebellion that dominated public affairs in Flanders for nearly five years until 1328.

The uprising in Flanders was caused by both excessive taxations leveed by Count Louis II of Nevers, and by his pro-French policies. The insurrection had urban leaders and rural factions which took over most of Flanders by 1325. The king of France directly intervened and the uprising was decisively put down at the Battle of Cassel in August of 1328. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peasant_revolt_in_Flanders [Mar 2005]

The Fourth Estate

The Fourth Estate, Il Quarto Stato (1901) - Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo

The term "Fourth Estate" refers to the press, both in its explicit capacity of advocacy and in its implicit ability to frame political issues. The term goes back at least to Thomas Carlyle.

The term Fourth Estate has also (more infrequently) been used to refer specifically to the proletariat as against the three recognized estates of the French ancien régime.

Interestingly, an even earlier citation can be found for this use than for the one that now prevails: Henry Fielding, Covent Garden Journal (1752): "None of our political writers... take notice of any more than three estates, namely, Kings, Lords, and Commons... passing by in silence that very large and powerful body which form the fourth estate in this community... The Mob." --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Estate [Jun 2005]

See also: 1901 - proletariat

Third Estate

In France of the ancien régime and the age of the French Revolution, the term Third Estate (tiers état) indicated the generality of people which were not part of the clergy (the First Estate) nor of the nobility (the Second Estate). From these terms came the name of the medieval French national assembly: the Estates-General (Fr. Etats-Généraux), the analogue to the British Parliament but with no constitutional tradition of vested powers, nor with any permanency: the French monarchy remained absolute, and the estates general were convened only episiodically.

The Third Estate comprised all those who were not members of the aristocracy or the clergy, including peasants, working people and the bourgeoisie. In 1789, the Third Estate made up 98% of the population in France. Due in part to a limited franchise, the representatives of the Third Estate actually came from the wealthy upper bourgeoisie; sometimes the term's meaning has been restricted to the middle class, as opposed to the working class. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Estate [Jun 2005]

See also: bourgeosie - class - French revolution - proletariat

see also: rebellion

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