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Lumpenbourgeoisie is a term used in colonial sociology to describe members of the middle class[1] and upper class[2] (merchants, lawyers, industrialists, etc.)[3] who have little collective self-awareness or economic base[1] and who support the colonial masters.[1][2] It is often attributed to Andre Gunder Frank in 1972,[1][4][a] although the term is already present in several texts by Lukács (1943), Koestler (1945), C. Wright Mills (1951) and also in Paul Baran's The Political Economy of Growth (1957). 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.

A compound of the German word Lumpen (rags) and French word bourgeoisie, it follows Karl Marx's concept of the lumpenproletariat, a rejected underclass that sides readily with the elite bourgeoisie.

In Latin America in the 1970s[edit]

The term is most often used in the context of Latin America.[4][3] Frank writing on the origins of the term[4] noted that he created this neologism,[1] lumpenbourgeoisie, from lumpenproletariat and bourgeoisie. But although the colonial and neocolonial elites in Latin America were similar to European bourgeoisie on many levels, noted Frank, they had one major difference. This difference was in the former's mentality akin to that of the Marxist lumpenproletariat, the "refuse of all classes" (as described in Marx's The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon) who are easy to manipulate to support the capitalist system, often turning to crime.[4] The colonial elites would—although not involved in crime activities—hurt the local economy by aiding the foreign exploiters.[4][5] Foreign colonial powers want to acquire resources and goods found in the colonies, and they find this facilitated through the incorporation of the local elites into the system, as these latter become intermediaries between the rich colonial buyers and the poor local producers.[5] The local elites then become increasingly reliant on the system in which they supervise the gathering of the surplus production from the colonies, taking their cut before the remaining goods are sold abroad.[5] Frank termed this economic system lumpendevelopment [5] and the countries affected by it lumpenstates.[3]

Prior usage[edit]

The term "lumpenbourgeoisie" had already been used circa 1926 in Austria by at least one author. The author was an Austrian social-democratic journalist who used the term in at least one article in a Viennese periodical.[citation needed] Joseph L. Love wrote that the term is misattributed to Frank [6] and was in fact coined by C. Wright Mills in White Collar: The American Middle Classes (1951).[7] However, in the 1940s, "lumpen bourgeoisie" – or "lumpen-bourgeoisie" – had already appeared in Lukács[8] and Koestler.[9]

In The Black Bourgeoisie (1957), which was translated from the original French text that was published in 1955, E. Franklin Frazier uses the term to describe African-American businessmen who cling to what he terms the "myth of Negro business" to affect meaningful change in racial politics.[10] He was especially focused on the development of black-owned business that developed and expanded in both the U.S. South and North during the first decades of the 20th century.

Later usage[edit]

An example of usage of the term after Frank is that by Czech philosopher Karel Kosík in 1997. In his article, Lumpenburžoazie a vyšší duchovní pravda ("Lumpenbourgeoisie and the higher spiritual truth"), Kosik defines "the lumpenbourgeoisie" as "a militant, openly anti-democratic enclave within a functioning, however half-hearted and thus helpless democracy".


  1. ^ a b c d e Kapcia Antoni, Antoni Kapcia, Havana: The Making of Cuban Culture, Berg Publishers, 2005, ISBN 1-85973-837-0, Google Print, p.15
  2. ^ a b William Edwin Segall, School Reform in a Global Society', Rowman & Littlefield, 2006, ISBN 0-7425-2461-2, Google Print p.146
  3. ^ a b c David Harrison, The Sociology of Modernization and Development, Routledge, 1988, ISBN 0-415-07870-9, Google Print, p.83
  4. ^ a b c d e Hosam Aboul-Ela, Other South: Faulkner, Coloniality, and the Mariategui Tradition, Univ of Pittsburgh Press, 2007, ISBN 0-8229-4314-X, Google Print, p.73
  5. ^ a b c d David Seth Preston, Contemporary Issues in Education, Rodopi, 2005, ISBN 90-420-1684-1, Google Print, p.58
  6. ^ Joseph L. Love, Third World' a response to professor Worsley, Third World Quarterly, Volume 2, Issue 2 April 1980 , pages 315 – 317
  7. ^ Mills, C. Wright,White collar; the American middle classes;
  8. ^ LUKÁCS, G. The Struggle of Humanism and Barbarism. 1. Racial Theory: Enemy of Human Progress. State Publishing House of the USSR, 1943.
    Quote: "The organs of white terror in the past reactionary coups were usually made up of mercenaries, of soldiery bribed and corrupted by fanatics, of the lumpen proletariat and the lumpen bourgeoisie."
  9. ^ KOESTLER, Arthur. The Intelligentsia (Autumn 1945), in The Yogi and the Commissar and other Essays.
    Quote: "Thus the intelligentsia, once the vanguard of the ascending bourgeoisie, becomes the Lumpen-Bourgeoisie in the age of its decay."
  10. ^ Frazier, E. Franklin (1957). Black Bourgeoisie. New York: The Free Press. p. 173.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Frank, Andre Gunder. Lumpenbourgeoisie and Lumpendevelopment: Dependency, Class and Politics in Latin America, 1972