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George Harrison and the Proletariat vs. Bourgeoisie

December 10, 2010

Being an avid Beatles fan, I’ve heard all the records, watched all the movies and read the all books. George Harrison (my personal favorite Beatle) didn’t contribute often as far as writing songs was concerned, but when he did, man, were they good. Harrison often preferred to write songs with social commentary – he was the most into “changing the world” with his music. Two of his songs, Piggies and Taxman, mirror Marx and Engels’ ideas on the Proletariat vs. the Bourgeoisie.

At the time it was written, Piggies, off the White Album, was seen as an anti-establishment song against the police. However, if looked at closer, there is a definite contrast between the two different types of piggies in the song:

 

Have you seen the little piggies
Crawling in the dirt
And for all the little piggies
Life is getting worse
Always having dirt to play around in.

Have you seen the bigger piggies
In their starched white shirts
You will find the bigger piggies
Stirring up the dirt
Always have clean shirts to play around in.

Obviously, there is a gap in social standing and power between the piggies in the dirt and the piggies in the starched white shirts. Although both classes are, well, pigs, the ones in the starched white shirts (the bourgeoisie) seem to be living the life. When the other pigs are crawling in the dirt (the working-class proletariats), a more negative term, white shirt pigs are stirring the dirt – a more overbearing, powerful term.

The song Taxman deals more with the bourgeoisie’s tendency to “take” from the hard-working proletariats. In the song, the Taxman comes across as greedy, powerful and in charge – like Marx and Engels’ bourgeoisie.

Let me tell you how it will be;
There’s one for you, nineteen for me.
‘Cause I’m the taxman,
Yeah, I’m the taxman.

…….

(if you drive a car, car;) – I’ll tax the street;
(if you try to sit, sit;) – I’ll tax your seat;
(if you get too cold, cold;) – I’ll tax the heat;
(if you take a walk, walk;) – I’ll tax your feet.

Basically, any move the proletariat makes, the bourgeoise benefits from.

All and all, George Harrison’s songs about social order don’t necessarily offer up a Marxian solution to the proletariat/bourgeoisie issue, but they very accurately illustrate the relationship between the two.

One Comment
  1. spriel permalink
    December 10, 2010 9:59 PM

    I really enjoyed this post! I thought it was a good way to end the semester because you make a recent topic we talked about in class more relevant to teens like us who are music junkies. For the future, even talking about examples like this in discussions would help students better understand Marx’s views of the class struggles. It is interesting how through the use of piggies, George Harrison is still able to communicate the dangers and offenses made by the bourgeoisie against the proletariat.

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