[OPE-L:5821] proletarianization and the industrial reserve army

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Thu Jun 07 2001 - 09:28:30 EDT

The following quote may be of interest for it relates to a couple of
threads (on 'socialism and the small farmer' and on Malthus):

"His [Malthus's, JL] supreme hope, which he himself  describes as more =
or less utopian,
is that the mass of the middle class should grow and that the =
proletariat (those who
work) should constitute a constantly declining proportion (even though =
it increases
absolutely)  of the total population. This is in fact the *course* taken =
by bourgeois
society" (_TSV_,  Part III, Ch. XIX, end of section 14, p. 63).

Yet, has this been the 'course' taken by bourgeois society?  Has the =
(here understood as the working population) *declined* as a percentage =
of the
total population?

As a matter of  historical fact, whether one is looking at the advanced =
economies or the world capitalist economy as a whole, I think the answer =
must be:

How Marx could have come to this assessment of empirical realities and =
-- based on the experience in Britain? -- is odd. 

The above quote does, I believe, show a problem with Marx's theory:

-- On the one hand, there is the argument that due to the centralization =
concentration of capital there is a proletarinization process which =
results in
the 'middle class' being squeezed out of business and joining the ranks =
the proletariat and/or the industrial reserve army. One could extend =
perspective to argue that the size of the IRA fluctuates with the trade

-- On the other hand, there is the general law of capitalist =
accumulation brought
about by the increasing organic composition of capital.  This =
suggests that the size of the IRA will increase as a percentage of the =
population over time.

It seems to me that the quote above must be based on Marx's =
of the growth in the 'relative surplus population' that is an expression =
of the
general law of capitalist accumulation.

The course of capitalist history does not seem to bear out the idea that =
IRA will tendencially increase as a percentage of the total population =
time. Rather, the course of capitalist history seems to support the =
belief that the size of the IRA fluctuates alongside changes in the =

Do others agree?

What are consequences in terms of *theory* of rejecting the perspective =
the proletariat will represent a declining proportion of the total =

Have I got Marx wrong or is at least one aspect of Marx's theory wrong
and self-contradictory and not supported by the historical record?

In solidarity, Jerry

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