Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Of proletarians and bourgeoisie

My daily quote of the day read "The whole dream of democracy is to raise the proletarian to the level of stupidity attained by the bourgeois." - Gustave Flaubert

I have to admit I don't know who Gustave is. Google tells me he's a French writer from the 1800s. The quote made me chuckle a tad. Bourgeois is not a term one comes across regularly unless one is tied to Econ. But then neither does Proletarian. What one does come across frequently is the term Democracy. And lately a question mark seems to be following it. Ever since the US government got into the business of bailing out companies, states, guys with million dollar bonuses, etc. and started taking stakes in it, the 'S' word (socialism for those of us willing to face the reality) has been surfacing in the same line as the name of this country. It can be dismissed as being far from truth (it's just a point of view after all) but the traces are there for us to see. May be in complex times like todays, there needs to be a hybrid of one or more economic theories to run countries (countries that are in a rut anyway).

Major detour. Back to Gustave Flaubert's world. Karl Marx defines the bourgeoisie as that class of society which is wealth producing. Basically property-owning peeps who are exploitative of the poor working class peeps. And a proletarian as a peasant or a manual worker. Socialists view a proletarian as someone who's got no property and therefore at the mercy of employers. I am overcome with emotions right now for remembering these terms/theory and not bunking every since class Econ class in b-school :p Marxism sees the proletariat and bourgeoisie as inherently opposed. For example, factory workers (proletarian) automatically wish wages to be as high as possible, while owners (bourgeoisie) wish for wages (costs) to be as low as possible.

Along with the memory of that Econ class, a joke also came to mind which was delivered in a rather animated fashion to us.

A capitalist is walking through his factory with a friend.
Friend asks, "What did you tell that man just now?"
"I told him to work faster", answers the capitalist.
"How much do you pay him?" asks the friend.
"Fifteen dollars a day" answers the capitalist.
"Where do you get the money to pay him?" asks the friend.
"I sell products", answers the capitalist.
"Who makes the products?" asks the friend.
"He does", answers the capitalist.
"How many products does he make in a day?" asks the friend.
"Fifty dollars worth", answers the capitalist.
"Then", concludes the friend, "Instead of you paying him, he pays you thirty-five dollars a day to tell him to work faster".
"Huh", and the capitalist quickly adds, "Well, I own the machines".
"How did you get the machines?" asks the friend.
"I sold products and bought them", answers the capitalist.
"And who made those products?" asks friend.
To which the capitalist can only respond—to his friend "Shut up! He might hear you".

I have a fun story from that class to share but to keep the length of this blog within reasonable limits, I will share it another time. I read one more quote from Flaubert "To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost" and chuckled some more. I wasn't aware people used the term 'stupid' half as much in the 1800s as we do. But then this guy was French!

I don't feel so stupid anymore :)


vj said...

Nice piece. i would rather be the stupid burgoise... :-)

On a side note, now that we know capitalism in its raw state inevitably leads to market excesses...perhaps it's time to experiment with a benign form of the capital sharing variety

Kusha said...

Real good one!
If you are looking for good sarcasm on Burgeoise..nothing better than French Cinema.

One that comes to my mind is
Discreet Charm of Burgeoise.

Pari said...

@ Varun - what?

@ Kush - thanks ms K :) I really need to get into the international cinema thing... one of these days!