Social murder

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Social murder is a phrase used by Friedrich Engels in his 1845 work The Condition of the Working-Class in England whereby "the class which at present holds social and political control" (i.e. the bourgeoisie) "places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death".[1] This was in a different category to murder and manslaughter committed by individuals against one another, as social murder explicitly was committed by the political and social elite against the poorest in society.[1]

This quotation begs careful study:

When one individual inflicts bodily injury upon another such that death results, we call the deed manslaughter; when the assailant knew in advance that the injury would be fatal, we call his deed murder. But when society places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death, one which is quite as much a death by violence as that by the sword or bullet; when it deprives thousands of the necessaries of life, places them under conditions in which they cannot live — forces them, through the strong arm of the law, to remain in such conditions until that death ensues which is the inevitable consequence — knows that these thousands of victims must perish, and yet permits these conditions to remain, its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of the single individual; disguised, malicious murder, murder against which none can defend himself, which does not seem what it is, because no man sees the murderer, because the death of the victim seems a natural one, since the offence is more one of omission than of commission. But murder it remains.[1]

Although originally written with regard to the English city of Manchester in the Victorian era, the term has controversially been used by left-wing politicians such as John McDonnell in the 21st century to describe Conservative economic policy as well as events such as the Grenfell Tower fire.[2][3][4] Lancaster University professor Chris Grover recently used the term to refer to Conservative public policy in the United Kingdom.[5] York University professor Dennis Raphael used it to describe Conservative public policy in Ontario, Canada.[6] In 2007 Canadian economists Robert Chernomas and Ian Hudson of the University of Manitoba used the term to refer to conservative economics in their book Social Murder: And Other Shortcomings of Conservative Economics .


  1. ^ a b c Engels, Friedrich (2009) [1845]. The Condition of the Working-Class in England. Cosimo, Inc. p. 95. ISBN 978-1-60520-368-3.
  2. ^ Chernomas, Robert; Hudson, Ian (2015). "Social murder and conservative economics". Criminal Justice Matters. 102 (1): 15–16. doi:10.1080/09627251.2015.1143625.
  3. ^ Chakrabortty, Aditya (20 June 2017). "Over 170 years after Engels, Britain is still a country that murders its poor". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  4. ^ Press Association (16 July 2017). "John McDonnell says Grenfell Tower disaster was 'social murder'". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  5. ^ "Austerity results in 'social murder' according to new research". Lancaster University. 19 December 2018. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  6. ^ Raphael, Dennis (8 October 2018). "Social murder and the Doug Ford government". Toronoto Star. Retrieved 21 April 2019.