Thursday, October 8, 2009

Democratization and the Proletariat Movement

The mid 18th through 19th centuries was a a period of great political, social, and economic upheaval. Movements within each of those systems were causing and effecting eachother simultaneously. For one, the proletariat was rapidly growing as the wave of industrialization flooded the west. All of the countries infiltrated by capitalism were seeing their numbers of manual laborers multiply while stimulating widespread urbanization and draining the rural areas of their farmers. Despite the heterogeneity of the hundreds and thousands of workers, complex firms were created that could be found all over.

The establishment of such a huge, but powerless class was a threatening presence amongst the established social and political systems. It is debatable when exactly the first democracies were formed (though most attribute it to Athens c.a. 500 BC), but at least in Europe, it was the British parliament in the 13th century that set the ball rolling. Gradual democratic alterations were taking place all over, in the U.S. and Poland for example, which culminated with their democratic constitutions in the 18th century. In the 19th century and into the 20th, however, it was just as gradual a process to obtain universal suffrage. Hobsbawm claims that it was inevitable for the proletariat to take a hand in their political fates, which they surely attempted by uniting and organizing into unions and political parties for socialist and communist movements. While the period of Enlightenment facilitated new ways of thinking and the increased secularization of the state provided the psychological room for change, print technology helped inform and open the minds of the masses.

I find it interesting that the worker's utopia wasn’t established. Why? They had enough numbers. They demonstrated the ability to organize. They could communicate more easily then before. Perhaps they could not overcome their ethnic or religious differences. Perhaps proletariat leaders were not educated enough or there weren't enough highly educated proletariat members to sustain smooth and strong transitions of leadership. How would our world be different to day had they succeeded? Is it possible that this may still be possible in the future?

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