What is Class?

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The Working Class Past & Present

We will start with discussing the concept of class. Is class a sociological or a political category? We will elaborate on the concepts such as free worker, wage-labour, exploitation, surplus-value, class antagonism, class relations and we will follow the formation of class in three realms being production, circulation and reproduction.

Second, we will provide an overview of the changes in the relations of production in the history of capitalism. Transatlantic trade, Mercantilism, putting-out system, industrial revolution, Taylorism- Fordism will be among topics we discuss. Our main focus will be to observe continuities and ruptures in labour relations in pre-capitalist and capitalist mode of productions.

We will end with discussing class composition today. The concept of precarity, the world-wide trends, intersectionality, automation, and the obstacles and possibilities of organisation will be discussed.

Readings (in the order of priority)

Extract from: E.P. Thompson. Preface to 'The making of the English working class' : E.P. Thompson. Preface to the making of the English working class

By class I understand an historical phenomenon unifying a number of disparate and seemingly unconnected events, both in the raw material of experience and in consciousness. I emphasize that it is an historical phenomenon. I do not see class as a "structure", nor even as a "category", but as something which in fact happens (and can be shown to have happened) in human relationships.

The finest meshed sociological net cannot give us a pure specimen of class, any more than it can give us one of deference or of love. The relationship must always be embodied in real people and in a real context. Moreover, we cannot have two distinct classes, each with an independent being, and then bring them into relationship with each other. We cannot have love without lovers, nor deference without squires and labourers. And class happens when some men, as a result of common experiences (inherited or shared), feel and articulate the identity of their interests as between themselves, and as against other men whose interests are different from (and usually opposed to) theirs.

Class-consciousness is the way in which these experiences are handled in cultural terms: embodied in traditions, value systems, ideas, and institutional forms. If the experience appears as determined, class-consciousness does not. We can see a logic in the responses of similar occupational groups undergoing similar experiences, but we cannot predicate any law. Consciousness of class arises in the same way in different times and places, but never in just the same way.

Excerpts from capital Volume 1&2

Excerpts from Ernest Mandel, Marxist Economic Theory

ILO Women at Work Trends 2016

ILO Global Estimates of Modern Slavery- excerpt