Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Rise of the Proletariat

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?


  1. The internet has clearly altered the way that democracy and society function. Obviously, the key differences are in the speed and method of information dissemination. What used to take hours or days, as we saw during the G20 or the Iranian elections, can now take minutes or seconds. Also, the method of distributing information has changed. Rather than a few monoliths collecting the information and then releasing it in bits and pieces, the internet allows information to be found and widely distributed by any individual. No longer can a large corporation withhold all news on a topic indefinitely, as someone will have seen it and put in on the internet. Obviously, a free exchange of information can only aid in democracy.

  2. I completely agree with Chazz's post. The internet has revolutionized communication aiding democracy as well, but i would like to point out that even on the internet as well with television..etc.. I feel that messages are brain washing, and constantly alter the truth. Also the internet has increased standards set in speed and voice of opinion. In essence the internet allows people in a democracy the power of all knowledge.