The Communist Manifesto Vs. Hard Times
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The Communist Manifesto vs. Hard Times
In the wake of the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, the rift between the rich and the poor became wider and more irreparable. For those trapped in the underclass workforce, life seemed bleak and ridden with poverty give that they had no representation in the political arena and working conditions were perilous. The Industrial Revolution created a society where social classes were sharply schismatic. Charles Dickens under the visage of fiction and Karl Marx via nonfiction critiqued and offered solutions to the adversity that attended this period of industrial development.
Karl Marx: Karl Marxs pamphlet, The Communist Manifesto, details the basic objective of Communism whilst simultaneously explicating the theory which buttresses the movement. According to Marx, “all history has been a history of class struggles, of struggles between exploited and exploiting, between dominated and dominating classes as various stages of social development” (472). The relationship between these different classes is normally characterized by the exploitation of the proletariat, the wage laborers, by the bourgeoisie, the boss or the employer. Inevitably, a revolution will springboard from this volatile relationship of overt inequality and subjugation and there will be a reordering of society, a new class will take the place of the bourgeoisie. Such class relations were clearly present during the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries and continues to affect our society today under the guise of capitalism, an economic system founded upon private investment and profiteering. For Marx, capitalism is a way of life that is inherently quixotic; stepping on others to achieve personal gain can only leads to acrimony and conflict.
The Industrial Revolution “has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedomÐ–Free Trade” (475). Not only did industrial development stunt social mobility but it also effaced individualism; hence, it had the net-effect of translating the bond between man and man into a money relation defined by self-interest. Yet, the proletariat make up the majority of the workforce and remain perpetually bound by their lack of privileges; therefore, the aforementioned self-interest that all should be afforded is subject to an entire system driven by their oppressors, the bourgeoisie.
Moreover, the Industrial Revolution became evermore pervasive not only due to technological advancement but rather bourgeoisie control and proliferation of information regarding capitalism and industrial development. “The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class (489).” In a nutshell, the ruling class molds society by promulgating ideas that best fulfill their ultimate goals; thus, industrial development and capitalism gained popular support by the bourgeoisie so as to maintain the existing social order.
Eventually, he believed the proletariat would solve their problems by uniting and leading a revolution that would result in a dramatic shift in power. This revolution would not be like others before it, where property was simply passed on to the next ruling class. Since, the proletariat have no means of changing their property status, when they come to power there will be no need for ownership of private property, and society will be composed of one homogenous class of proletariat. Class conflict will no longer be a problem. The ultimate goal of The Communist Manifesto was to bring about social change by informing people about the communist movement.
Charles Dickens: Coketown, as depicted in Dickens Hard Times is a model of an industrial town; such towns were often located near newly founded factories. It may be a fictional location in the context of the industrial age, but it serves Dickens purpose of portraying the negative effects of the Industrial Revolution. Many of the details of Coketown are based on the harsh realities of industrialization, but Dickens employs hyperbole to focus the readers attention on the points he would like to criticize.
At the time, it was believed that higher industrial output would increase national income which would be advantageous to everyone; under this presupposition, Coketown exists. The workings of the town are very rational; all scarce resources are utilized efficiently. Beautification is not a priority since it does not contribute to higher industrial output. Coketown jettisons the idea of individuality and identity. The town is deprived of sentimentality and creativity by virtue of the cold mechanical philosophy of rationalism and industrialization that permeates the local populace.
Coketowns buildings are void of character. With bitter irony, Dickens explains the difficulty in differentiating the infirmary from the jail; utilitarian rationale has deprived each of its own distinctiveness whilst assigning the healing process in an infirmary greater semblance to serving a sentence in jail. The church, traditionally steeped in spirituality, is no longer any different from a warehouse, a storage area for retail goods; now it is simply a product of industrialization and Utilitarianism. Dickens believes industrialization and Utilitarianism go hand in hand. “Fact, fact, fact, everywhere in the material aspect of town; fact, fact, fact everywhere in the immaterial.” Utilitarianism is encapsulated in this statement and in the town; everything serves a material process.
In Coketown, women are oppressed by men,