Underclass  

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"The lumpenproletariat [...] decayed roués with dubious means of subsistence and of dubious origin, alongside ruined and adventurous offshoots of the bourgeoisie, were vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, escaped galley slaves, swindlers, mountebanks, lazzaroni, pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers, maquereaux [pimps], brothel keepers, porters, literati, organ grinders, ragpickers, knife grinders, tinkers, beggars — in short, the whole indefinite, disintegrated mass, thrown hither and thither, which the French call la bohème." --The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon (1852) by Karl Marx

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The contemporary concept of the underclass is a sanitized term for what was known in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as the undeserving poor, and was first used by Gunnar Myrdal in 1962. The usage came into wide circulation in the early 1980s, following Ken Auletta`s (1982) use of the term in three articles published in The New Yorker in 1981, and in book form a year later. Auletta refers to the underclass as a group who do not "assimilate" (1982: xvi quoted in Morris, 1994: 81), identifying four main groups:

In 1984 Charles Murray published a book called Losing Ground, which popularized the term underclass. This was far from the first time the idea of a group of people below or outside the class structure was discussed. Karl Marx referred to a group he called the lumpenproletariat.

Many other terms have been used to "describe a section of society which is seen to exist within and yet at the base of the working class." --Mann, 1992, p. 2.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Underclass" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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