Friday, October 9, 2009

Age of Empire: Commentary 2

This weeks readings begin by talking about the growth of democracy, “the government of the mass of people…on the whole, poor” according to Aristotle (85). The working class had grown and was continuously growing during the period of industrialization. The class divisions were no longer divided into a small elite ruling class and those in poverty; there was a growing middle class that was looking to gain power. These so called proletariat classes were looking to gain power in the economy and political system. Aristotle called democracy “the government of the mass of people,” and the mass of people had never been represented in government. Once they gained the right to vote, the “majority of the electorate were bound to be poor, insecure…and discontented” (112). During the late 1800’s it was obvious that changes in government were leaning toward democracy due to the fact that most male citizens were excluded from the right to vote. Governments were not happy in the growth of the electorate, in places such as Great Britain the electorate rose from 8 to 29 percent of men. Even Russia was moving toward a system of “politics based on an increasingly wide electorate dominated by the common people” (87). Politicians did not even desire to speak to the masses, but eventually were forced to. It was during this period of that “yellow” journalism was created. While forced to talk to the public, the working class was told one thing, while in private and sessions with the “enlightened and intelligent” politicians said another, leading to the nickname “the era of public political hypocrisy” (88). The change was inevitable though due to urbanization, something that was advancing “more rapidly and massively than ever before” (113). This era was very progressive with many workers joining unions and getting involved with the political process. Although the unions were said to be national, they were by far more “localized and decentralized” (122). Take for example the largest enterprise in the economy, railways; they were so vast that it was impossible to organize a union on a national level. During this time period, the people and classes which had previously been left out of power fought back to gain control. Whether through riots, unions or enfranchisement, those not in the elite class, who made up the majority of the population, fought to gain power, and did.

I found it interesting that there was not a very strong pull toward socialism, as their political parties remained small and minority. The second thing I found interesting that it was during this time that “tradition” was invented, combining old and new ways in government.

What I thought was interesting was the fact that the Church decided to stay out of politics. Hobsbawm states, “the political potential of Christian parties was enormous” but one of my questions is why did they resist (91). The Catholic Church in the previous decades and even centuries had been enormously powerful; one could say that they were one of THE largest powers in politics. Why now did they chose to refrain from gaining power? What changed? Also, what made the Protestants practically stay away from political parties all together?

No comments:

Post a Comment