The proletariat is a term used to describe the working class of wage-earners or the industrial workers in capitalist societies whose possession of material value is only their ability to work. Thus a member of such a class of wage-earners or the industrial workers is a proletarian. The term proletariat is used to name the social class that does not have ownership of the means of production and whose only means of subsistence is to sell their ability to work or labor power. According to Marxism, the proletariat and bourgeoisie as occupying conflicting positions, since workers wish their wages to be as high as possible, while owners wish for wages to be as low as possible. In Marxist theory, the borders between the proletariat and some layers of the petite bourgeoisie and the lumpenproletariat are not well defined.
Under the Constitution of the Roman Republic, the proletarii constituted a social class of Roman citizens owning little or no property.
The origin of the term proletariat is linked with the census Roman authorities conducted every five years to produce a register of citizens and their property based on which their military duties and voting rights could be determined. The international proletariat make up more than half of the world population.