Thinking Beyond Badiou: The Question of the Lumpenproletariat



Marx and Engels by the phrase at once picturesque and contemptuous of “lumpen proletariat”, the “riff raff”, that rabble which, being very nearly unpolluted by all bourgeois civilization carries in its heart, in its aspirations, in all necessities and the miseries of its collective position, all the germs of the Socialism of the future, and which alone is powerful enough to-day to inaugurate the Social Revolution and bring it to triumph (Bakunin in Marxism, Freedom, and the State).

Mikhail Bakunin believed, against Marx, that the lumpenproletariat were among the revolutionary classes because they remained relatively untarnished by power. By circumstance, the lumpen offer nothing to those in power, and so, they, in turn, are nothing to those with power. On the other hand, the proletariat offer up their labour – and, in so doing, they offer up surplus value – to the bourgeoisie.

Alain Badiou confused the lumpenproletariat for…

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