During the Roman Empire the contribution of a proletarius to the Roman society was seen in his ability to produce children that would colonize new territories. In Marxist theory, the term proletariat signifies the social class that does not have ownership of the means of production and whose only means of subsistence is to sell their labor power for a wage or salary.
Today, there is perhaps some confusion. Part of the confusion is that capital has sought (successfully) to blur the distinction between capitalist and worker, for example by encouraging workers to become shareholders, and encouraging a confused view of class based on a variety of issues, including the self-image of the “middle class” as perceived capitalists.
One thing is for sure. Most of the recent economic growth is going to an extraordinarily small share of the population: 95% of the gains from the recovery have gone to the richest 1% of people, whose share of overall income is once again close to its highest level in a century.
The recent concentration of income gains among the most affluent is both politically dangerous and economically damaging.
The reason I find this Klee painting so compelling is how it depicts this modern dilemma. The economy is an illusion. We are still nothing more than the procreators of more labor. Certainly a great deal of intelligence must be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.
In this face, I can see how the words of Joseph P. Blodgett ring true: “It's all illusion: the illusion of space, the illusion of mass, the illusion of light. The illusions go on and on, there is no limit to the number of illusions you can come up with.”