Figures of the migrant: Structure and resistance

More specifically, however, the primary confusion here is that I included denationalized  refugees in the category of the proletariat when in fact many, but not all, of these refugees did not work. While many worked illegally, there were and are today many refugees who would like to work but cannot or do not want to work illegally. Marx calls this non-working surplus population the “latent surplus army,” which waits in the wings in poverty and desperation until the market needs them. Technically, just because someone is not working at any given time does not mean that they are not part of the vast “lumpen proletariat” or even the “stagnant population” which is fundamentally “unemployable.”
This is one possible response to thinking of stateless refugees as part of the lumpen proletariat. Another, and what I was going for in pages 108–111, was that the kinetic pattern of elasticity that defines that the working economic proletariat is actually the same elastic pattern that defined the process of denationalized surplus populations. Instead of economic equilibrium, the aim was to produce a racial or social equilibrium. In this sense, the economic and non-economic populations were part of the same pattern of elastic circulation: the same elastic proletariat. But I see how this is confusing, given the typically economic definition of the proletariat.


Foto: Bernhard Weber

Scroll to Top