I came across this word today in an article about a French book (a current sensation) subtitled “The Art and the Importance of Doing the Least Possible in the Workplace,” which the journalist says “is to France’s managerial class what the Communist Manifesto once was to the lumpen proletariat.”

Wait a minute! Eduardo Galeano’s dog (his wife’s dog, I guess) is named Pepa Lumpen (or so he writes in The Book of Embraces), but I always just thought that was some nonsense name one would give a dog! So I looked it up in the OED and found, under lumpenproletariat,

A term applied, orig. by Karl Marx, to the lowest and most degraded section of the proletariat; the ‘down and outs’ who make no contribution to the workers’ cause. So lumpenproletarian a. and n. Also lumpen a., boorish, stupid, unenlightened, used derisively to describe persons, attitudes, etc., supposed to be characteristic of the lumpenproletariat; also ellipt. or as n.

No doubt I’ll be seeing a lot of this word in the weeks to come.

PatrickWords09/15/04 1 comments


Dad • 09/28/04 12:11 PM:

By the way, lumpenproletariat was a question (i.e. answer) on Jeopardy’ tournament of champions recently.

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