Wednesday, October 7, 2009

AoE Commentary 2

This week's readings were about the emergence of democracy and the emergence of "the masses" as more than just a passive proletariat. Realistically, the two topics and "creations" are greatly related.
Democracy infiltrated the world before WW1, but after the Great War it spread even more - monarchies [especially in Europe] became greatly obsolete and were slowly replaced [e.g. the Austria-Hungary Empire and the Ottoman Empire]. Democracy came into existence because the masses wanted more say in what happened around them. Although in the traditional sense, democracy is seen in a very positive light, Hobsbawm focuses on the facade of it. The ruling class [the minority as this point] made "democracy" to palliate the masses [poor yet the majority] so that they wouldn't go crazy and rebel or stage a coup, etc. However, the large gap between "political discourse and political reality" was testimony to the fact that politicians had no great intention to really do what the masses wanted. And it is seen that in reality the masses did not know either what they wanted. Many did not understand that their demands and the demands of those radical labor and socialist parties required social revolution - many did not want a complete overturning of the system. In addition, the disparity that existed between the masses and the radical parties as well as between the subfactions of the masses themselves largely rendered the masses as incapable of creating any lasting true overturning or revolution - a consequence not uncommon of fragmentation.
I found Hobsbawm's explanation for the gap between political discourse and political reality very interesting. A similar reason as to why direct democracies were eliminated - the masses are not educated enough or informed enough to completely understand the implication of their demands and actions - as illustrated by the fact that most did not understand that their "small" demands" required radical social change. However, this also shows lasting superiority and prejudice - which would change as more and more people were educated and became literate.
One thing that I was unsure about was the origins of the socialist and labor parties that are mentioned as starting to band the masses - proletariat - into different groups and to start to give them a voice. Were these in existence much prior to the era discussed or were they new?

1 comment:

  1. I liked your post because it wrapped together all of our reading for this past week. Democracy's new existence was a major step in this time period. I saw that you questioned if these socialist and labor parties banning together and if they were starting to band together before this era. I don't think they banned together like they did during this era because it wasn't a major deal before. With all the changes happening, the banning of these masses was relatively new. Before this time period, there were different groups and people were thinking differently than they did during the Age of Empire. I'm not entirely sure if I am correct but that's just what I think!