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Philippine Journal of Public Policy: Interdisciplinary Development Perspectives 2023

Using Marx to Understand the Working Class in the Philippines

  • Author

    Benjamin B. Velasco
    Assistant Professor, University of the Philippines Diliman
    [email protected]

  • Volume

    2023: 1—33

  • Type

    Full-Length Peer-Reviewed Article

  • Abstract

    In the Philippines, service workers outnumber workers in industry and agriculture. Wage workers are the majority, but there is substantial nonwaged employment. Marxist categories as a relational theory of social classes can unpack these characteristics of the working class. Production relations and the labor theory of value are relevant concepts. The working class is defined by its situation—it is the propertyless mass who must sell their labor power in return for wages to the capitalist class who own the means of production. Thus, service workers are no less proletarian than industrial workers. Moreover, service workers engaged in the supply chain of commodity production—from engineers designing products to workers transporting goods to wholesale and retail employees laboring at the point of sale—all contribute to the creation of value and surplus value. Proletarianization subjugates sections of the working class and even independent producers to the industrial regime characterized by division of labor and mechanization of work. Capitalism simultaneously creates, destroys, and reconstitutes sections of the working class as it develops. For Marx, the working class is composed of the army of labor and the reserve army. The reserve army of labor is the nonwaged population or the urban and rural poor in the Philippines. They are the semi-proletariat, which connotes their similarity yet distinctiveness from the proletariat.

  • Keywords

    Working class in the Philippines, social classes, Marx, class analysis, service workers, semi-proletariat

  • Citation

    Velasco, Benjamin B. “Using Marx to Understand the Working Class in the Philippines.” Philippine Journal of Public Policy: Interdisciplinary Development Perspectives 2023: 1–33. 

  • Photo

    “Baliwagenyo welder with green hard hat working atop a petrol station metal structure 03.jpg,” FBenjr123, Wikimedia Commons