Friday, October 9, 2009

Hobsbawm blog 2

In The Age of Empire, Chapter 4 deals mainly with how democracy came to belong to the masses once it took hold in the United States and Europe. As suffrage became more universal, workers and laborers became important components of politics. Ideological mass movements were created in which the common people were united by "religion, nationalism, democracy, socialism" and more (93). This inevitably created class tensions. The ruling classes and oligarchies were especially threatened by socialism which "suddenly emerged internationally as a mass phenomenon" (101). However, socialism did not take hold as the ruling class feared- as Hobsbawm put it, "democracy... proved itself to be quite compatible with the political and economical stability of capitalist regimes" (110).
As agricultural workers decreased and industrial workers increased, politics and democracy itself changed drastically. The urban workers began to organize and labor unions and workers' parties gained power. These mass working class parties, however, were not content with democracy as it was but instead were "inspired by an ideology of revolutionary socialism" (116). Apparently they did not buy into the compatibility of capitalism and democracy. At any rate, the ruling classes could no longer ignore the opinions of the common people, as they now represented huge parts of the electorate. They didn't have to give in to socialist and communist ideals but they could not pretend that the proletariat did not have a certain amount of power. History could have been very different if the working class had managed to unite and carry through with their ideological reforms. As it was, different groups were unwilling to get past preexisting schisms in order to work towards their common goal.

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