As stated before, the key classes in the capitalist mode of production

are the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, or capitalists and landless wage
laborers. While Marx

recognizes that there are other classes, the fundamental class division is
between this pairing of

the exploiter and the exploited. The bourgeoisie derive their class position
from the fact that they

own productive wealth. It is not their high income that makes them
capitalists, but the fact that

they own the means of production. For example, the inputs necessary for
production - factories,

machines, etc. The ability of workers to work (labor power) is in itself a
marketable commodity

bought for the least cost to be used at will by the capitalist. In addition,
the capitalist owns the

product and will always pocket the difference between the value of the labor
and the value of the

product - referred to by Marx as \'surplus value\' - purely by virtue of his
ownership. His property

rights also allow the capitalist the control of the process of production and
the labor he buys. The

proletariat in contrast, owns no means of production.

Because of this exploitation, Marx viewed the bourgeoisie and the proletariat
as locked in

deep and unavoidable conflict. As capitalism expanded, the conflict would
become more intense

as the condition of the workers became worse. Over time, some members of the

would come to understand their unfair position and would begin to communicate
with each other.

This would enable them to organize and overthrow the capitalist system. The
revolution would

pave the way for a new socialist system that would abolish private ownership
of the means of

production. This forms the basis of Marx\'s theory of class, and with further
discussion, the

complexities will present themselves.

This two class model is not Marx\'s only use of the word \'class\'. He uses the
term of other

economic groups, and particularly of the petty or petite bourgeoisie and the
peasants. These

groups seem to make the neat division of the Communist Manifesto
inapplicable, for these two

- 3 -

groups obviously merge into bourgeoisie and the proletariat according to how
many workers they

employ or how much land they own. Marx even foresaw, with increased use of
machinery and

the increase of service industries, the advent of a new middle class. This
raises two main


The first concerns the complications of social stratification in relation to
the basic classes.

In the fragment on \'three great classes of modern society\' in Capital III,
Marx observes that even

England, where the economic structure is "most highly and classically
developed...[m]iddle and

intermediate strata even here obliterate lines of demarcation
everywhere"3 Even though this

observation does not fit easily with the idea of an increasing polarization
of bourgeois society

between \'two great classes\', Cole explains how Marx:

regard[ed] the blurring of class divisions as a matter of secondary
importance, influential

in shaping the course of particular phases and incidents of the fundamental
class struggle,

but incapable of altering its essential character or its ultimate outcome.
[And] in the long

run the forces making for polarisation were bound to come into play more and
more as the

difficulties of Capitalism increased: so that the decisive class-struggle
between capitalists

and proletarians could be delayed, but by no means averted or changed in its

character by the emergence of any new class.4

Even so, Cole asks for a \'critique\' of Marx in light of todays circumstances,
questioning the

validity of this statement.

The second question concerns the situation and development of two principal
classes in

capitalist society, bourgeoisie and proletariat. In The 18th Brumaire of
Louis Bonaparte, Marx

gave this negative definition of a fully constituted class:

In so far as millions of families live under economic conditions of existence
that seperate

their mode of life, their interests and their culture from those of the other
classes, and put

them in hostile opposition to the latter, they form a class. In so far as
there is merely a

local interconnection among these small-holding peasants, and the identity of

interests begets no community, no national bond and no political organisation

them, they do not form a class5

- 4 -

In the Poverty of Philosophy, describing the emergence of the working class,
Marx expressed the

same idea in positive terms:

Economic conditions had first transformed the mass of the people of the
country into

workers. The combination of capital has created for this mass a common

common interests. This mass is thus already a class as against capital, but
not yet for

itself. In the struggle, of which we have noted only a few phases, this mass

united, and constitutes itself as a class for itself. The interests it
defends becomes class


Most Marxists have recognized, that in the case of the working class, the
development of a

\'socialist\' or \'revolutionary\' consciousness poses problems which require
more careful and

thorough study. \'Class