In this week’s reading, Hobsbawm discusses the shifts in political power during the late 1800’s and through the early 1900’s. The dramatic changes in global politics are due to the rise in democracy seen through revolutions or the introduction of more democratic policies into Europe’s monarchies and aristocracies. Directly related to this political evolution is the rise of the “proletariat” or the working class people. This vast majority of the population began to take an active role in politics, creating trade unions, worker’s movements and political parties to represent their interests. The general public was more literate, and more aware of the power they held in politics, as suffrage was expanded to more and more of the population.
The causes behind the rise of the proletariat particularly interested me. There are two major factors behind the rise of the proletariat, literacy and urbanization. In class, we mentioned an interesting statistic: that several major revolutions occurred as the population reached literacy rates near 50%. There is a clear connection between literacy rates and political awareness. The common people were also flooded with new sources of information in the form of newspapers, magazines and pamphlets. The mass migration of people from the country into the city also affected the working class. There were more people interacting and sharing ideas in the cities than ever before, and this allowed for the spread of new political ideas. This combination of information and proximity created a hothouse of political activity, and the rise of the working class.
This brought me to consider the affect of the Internet and other modern media on today’s politics. New trends like blogging and social network sites have revolutionized the way ideas are shared. Just think about how different political coups are today, for example, over the summer Iran’s elections were protested across the country, and word was spread mainly through sites like twitter and facebook. Even in on our own campus, with all the events of the G20 the internet has played a major role. Basically, my question is, how has the Internet affected modern democracy?