Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Proletariat

This portion of The Age of Empire revolves around the working class, or proletariat, and its influence on world growth economically, politically, and socially. The industrial revolution was prominent in Europe, North America, and Japan from the 1870s until 1914, which provided numerous large plants (ranging from those involved with mines or oilfields to construction) employing many people in this class. At first there was a certain political hypocrisy since manipulation covered up a distinct gap between the public discourse and the political reality. Labor and socialist movements struggled with unification because of many divisions, the most obvious being language, nationality, culture, and religion. By 1890 these movements evolved due to the working class acting together with dissatisfaction towards the injustice in social order and their relationship with employers. Political action soon provided the reform called for, and the Marxist ideas flourished in the east, as they were devoted to progress and a better future.

I found the idea that capitalism abandoned bourgeois democracy especially intriguing because surely some world leaders at the time must have understood that soon enough the masses would want some of the same opportunities. The Bismarckian model is all about manipulation of citizens. Hobsbawm discusses what happened when the “real country” began to penetrate the “legal country,” and property rights and education qualifications were often preserved, along with open ballots pressuring people to vote one way or another.

Also, there was a belief that more patriotism would minimize the mobilization of the masses. France emphasizing the Fourteenth of July and Hitler giving speeches in Berlin’s sports palace easily manipulated people to follow the political system of their country. I think a national anthem and pledging to the flag are important in honoring our country and those who fought for it throughout history, but this reading made me wonder if there is perhaps an underlying meaning. Are some of these forms of patriotism, even in the U.S., simply emphasized in order to control the citizens?

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