Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hartz IV &"precariat" avant la lettre

There was a large penumbra of insecure officials, untenured academics, would-be professional men, and marginal figures like journalists, a sign of what has been called the 'excess of educated men' in the Vormärz period [...]

The same point can be made for the bottom end of society. Contemporaries began to use the term 'proletariat' from the 1830s, but they meant something different from the class of industrial factory workers in Karl Marx's celebrated Communist Manifesto (1848), a work that was more prophetic than descriptive in the German case. [...] The term [...] referred to the urban equivalent of the rural underclass, those gathered together in towns and cities who lacked not only the means of production, but property, regular employment or security. The term embraced casual workers, labourers, servants, apprentices, unemployed journeymen and impoverished masters, as well as the floating urban population of knife-grinders, messengers, hawkers and the dangerous class of beggars, vagrants, prostitutes and criminals.

D. Blackbourn, History of Germany, p. 89-90.