Social murder

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Social murder is a phrase used by Friedrich Engels in his 1845 work The Condition of the Working-Class in England whereby "the class which at present holds social and political control" (i.e. the bourgeoisie) "places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death".[1] This was in a different category to murder and manslaughter committed by individuals against one another, as social murder explicitly was committed by the political and social elite against the poorest in society.[1]

Although originally written with regard to the English city of Manchester in the Victorian era, the term has controversially been used by left-wing politicians such as John McDonnell in the 21st century to describe Conservative economic policy, as well as events such as the Grenfell Tower fire.[2][3][4]


  1. ^ a b Engels, Friedrich (2009) [1845]. The Condition of the Working-Class in England. Cosimo, Inc. p. 95. ISBN 978-1-60520-368-3.
  2. ^ Chernomas, Robert; Hudson, Ian (2015). "Social murder and conservative economics". Criminal Justice Matters. 102 (1): 15–16. doi:10.1080/09627251.2015.1143625. 
  3. ^ Chakrabortty, Aditya (20 June 2017). "Over 170 years after Engels, Britain is still a country that murders its poor". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 January 2018. 
  4. ^ Press Association (16 July 2017). "John McDonnell says Grenfell Tower disaster was 'social murder'". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 January 2018.