Lumpenbourgeoisie is a term used primarily in the context of colonial and neocolonial elites in Latin America, which became heavily dependent and supportive of the neocolonial powers. It is a hybrid compound of the German word Lumpen (rags) and the French word bourgeoisie.
Lumpenbourgeoisie is a term most often attributed to Andre Gunder Frank in 1972 [a] to describe a type of a middle class and upper class (merchants, lawyers, industrialists, etc.); one that has little collective self-awareness or economic base and who supports the colonial masters. The term is most often used in the context of Latin America.
Frank writing on the origins of the term noted that he created this neologism lumpenbourgeoisie from lumpenproletariat and bourgeoisie because while the Latin America's colonial and neocolonial elites were similar to European bourgeoisie on many levels, they had one major difference. This difference was their mentality of the marxist lumpenproletariat, the "refuse of all classes" (as described in Marx's The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon) easy to manipulate to support the capitalist system, often turning to crime. Similarly, the colonial elites would—while not involved in crime activities—hurt local economy by aiding the foreign exploiters. Foreign colonial powers want to acquire resources and goods found in the colonies, and they find this facilitated with incorporation of the local elites into the system, as they become intermediaries between the rich colonial buyers and the poor local producers. The local elites become increasingly reliant on the system in which they supervise gathering of the surplus production from the colonies, taking their cut and before the remaining goods are sold abroad. Frank termed this economic system lumpendevelopment and the countries affected by it, lumpenstates.
The term Lumpenbourgeoisie was already used in Austria by about 1926. The author was an Austrian social democratic journalist and he used the term in at least one article in a Viennese periodical. Another example of the use of the term was given by Czech philosopher Karel Kosík in 1997. In his article, Lumpenburžoazie a vyšší duchovní pravda ("Lumpenbourgeoisie and the higher spiritual truth") he defines Lumpenbourgeoisie as "a militant, openly anti-democratic enclave within a functioning, however half-hearted and thus helpless democracy".
^ a Joseph L. Love wrote that the term is misattributed to Frank and was in fact coined by C. Wright Mills in White Collar (1956). Nonetheless, the term was popularized by Frank's book Lumpenbourgeoisie and Lumpendevelopment: Dependency, Class and Politics in Latin America (1972) which used it in its title.
- Andre Gunther Frank, Lumpenbourgeoisie and Lumpendevelopment: Dependency, Class and Politics in Latin America, 1972
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