Class struggleClass struggle is class conflict looked at from a Marxist perspective. In Marxist theory, "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle", Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto, 1848.
It is economic class. And membership of a class is defined by the way you earn the money you need to survive. Marx talks mainly about two classes :
- Labor is anyone who earns their money by working for someone else and being paid a wage.
- Capital is anyone who makes their money by investing it and getting some kind of return from that investment.
Marx felt that this was an irreconcible conflict that would last as long as capitalism. And he thought it would inevitably cause an extreme polarization of the classes, leading eventually the revolution that would destroy capitalism itself.
In practice things are more complex. There are other economic classes :
- the self-employed professional who clearly works and sells labor, but labor packaged as a product. She may have an interest in reducing the cost of her own labor as long as the product, as perceived by the buyer, can still be sold at sufficient profit.
- the small-shop keeper or sole-trader, who invests money in buying resalable commodities. She has an interest in reducing the price of the things she buys. But she still works (often very hard) and wants this work to be rewarded.
- anyone who works in an investing industry and who's job and salary depends on the success of the capital strategy.
- since Marx, many states have tried to compensate for the difficulties experienced by workers due to cyclic unemployment. Unfortunately there is also a growing structural unemployment and some people are ending up permanently dependent on welfare. They form yet another economic class.
- Finally, thieves of various kinds depend on crime for their income.