Gabor Steingart on the changing nature of the European lumpenproletariat.
Rather, what stand out are the symptoms of intellectual neglect. The poor of today watch television for half the day. These days, television producers even refer to what they call “Underclass TV.” The new proletariat eats a lot of fatty foods and he enjoys smoking and drinking — a lot. About 8 percent of Germans consume 40 percent of all the alcohol sold in the country. While he may be a family man, his families are often broken. And on Election Day, he casts a protest vote for the extreme left or right wing party, sometimes switching quickly from one to the other.
But the main thing that sets the modern poor apart from the industrial age pauper is a sheer lack of interest in education. Today’s proletariat has little education and no interest in obtaining more. Back in the early days of industrialization, the poor joined worker associations that often doubled as educational associations. The modern member of the underclass, by contrast, has completely shunned personal betterment.
Marx and Engels on the nature of the lumpenproletariat:
The “dangerous class”, [lumpenproletariat] the social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of the old society, may, here and there, be swept into the movement by a proletarian revolution; its conditions of life, however, prepare it far more for the part of a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue.
and here is a reference to this class in Grundrisse that I found interesting and needs to be kept in mind when looking for the modern lumpenproletariat- since there has been a significant rise in the services sector since Marx’s time- note the interesting reference to the ‘honest’ and ‘working’ lumpenproletariat that stands in marked contrast to his comments on the class elsewhere (in the Manifesto, quoted above, and elsewhere)
The same relation holds for all services which workers exchange directly for the money of other persons, and which are consumed by these persons. This is consumption of revenue, which, as such, always falls within simple circulation; it is not consumption of capital. Since one of the contracting parties does not confront the other as a capitalist, this performance of a service cannot fall under the category of productive labour. From whore to pope, there is a mass of such rabble. But the honest and ‘working’ lumpenproletariat belongs here as well; e.g. the great mob of porters etc. who render service in seaport cities etc. He who represents money in this relation demands the service only for its use value, which immediately vanishes for him; but the porter demands money, and since the party with money is concerned with the commodity and the party with the commodity, with money, it follows that they represent to one another no more than the two sides of simple circulation; goes without saying that the porter, as the party concerned with money, hence directly with the general form of wealth, tries to enrich himself at the expense of his improvised friend, thus injuring the latter’s self-esteem, all the more so because he, a hard calculator, has need of the service not qua capitalist but as a result of his ordinary human frailty.
See also the Wikipedia entry for the term.