Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Age of Empire "proletariats"

"And the class whose numbers were most visibly growing...who class consciousness seemed most directly to threaten the social, economic and political system of modern societies, was the proletariat" (112). Hobsbawm explains the life of a proletariat, the working mass of the 19th century, as expanding to great numbers because of the need for labor in the economic expansion of the time. The laborers were important to the manufacturers and in essence the growth of industry at the time, because at the time there was a "marriage between manual dexterity and steam technology" (115), workers like those of the smiths were still needed in the expansion of making the new machinery needed for industrialization. It was asked in class discussion why the proletariats found an interest in politics at this time, when in previous years they had not cared; the capitalists were ruling and gaining the benefits of what the proletariats were producing. At the time, the capitalists who owned the industries that the proletariats were working for would in turn not be able to produce the large intake of goods if they did not have the proletariats working for them and also producing the machinery needed to support their industry. Karl Marx, a well known socialist, understood the importance of the working class, and blamed them for the deterioration of the working class's creativity and more importantly their human essence.
In Marx's mind those reaping the benefits of the workers' skills would never be as successful as they were if it weren't for the workers themselves. Although, Marx's ideas of alienation were a bit before the Age of the Empire, the proletariats took on the general idea of getting wages for their work. When your economic and social interests are involved in the political world, of course you are going to become involved.

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