Marxist Dictionary

Tendency towards the massive impoverishment of the non-bourgeois layers of society and in particular of the workers through the increase of exploitation in absolute terms, unemployment, the general precarization of living and working conditions and war.


The cause of pauperization is in the very nature of the accumulation process. When the market does not grow at the rate that capital accumulation would require, only the increase in exploitation in absolute terms allows for a relief in the profitability of productive capital. However, in doing so, it further restricts demand, feeding a vicious circle in which unemployment inevitably grows.

A drop in the purchasing power of wages, the reduction or disappearance of basic services, precarization and unemployment are the three main vectors of pauperization because they are the necessary ways or the accompanying factors of the bourgeoisie’s attempts to increase exploitation in absolute terms.

Historical development of the trend

Under rising capitalism, pauperization appears only at the end of the economic cycle, when large masses of unemployed form, working hours increase, and wages fall across the board. However, in each case, the expansion of the world market reverses the trend and a new cycle of accumulation ensues without its burden.

Since the entry of capitalism into its historical decadence, pauperization becomes a permanent and global trend. It is evident in war and throughout the long phase of crisis that follows war reconstructions, but it is present even during reconstruction in the weakest and most peripheral countries.

It is no longer the result of a moment in the expansion of the system but of a phase in which the lack of extra-capitalist markets can no longer be overcome by a new expansion of the world market. This “confinement” of capital in a finite world that cannot absorb the total of production with what capitalism gives to the workers as a salary, triggers the flight to credit, the formation of fictitious speculative capital and the declining trend of the rate of profit. The permanent tendency towards crisis is also a permanent tendency towards the pauperization of the workers.

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