"The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles," said Karl Marx, who is considered to be one of the world's most seminal thinkers. Marx categorized these classes in two broad categories; the bourgeoisie versus the proletariats, the upper class opposed to the lower class and the caste that have access to the factors of production against everybody else who are compelled to sell their labor. In political terms the bourgeois were the "…
committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie" (Marx, 20) and in order to reduce any friction, tension or resistance towards their supremacy they then laid down a set of ideals and values for all classes and citizens. The ultimate goal of having a monotonous set of principles was to disintegrate existing ideals and values by instigating the proletariats to fully accept the bourgeois' set of principles by suspending their own.
History, however, has yet to see such an outcome where the bourgeois triumph in instigating such circumstances successfully. What occurs in such circumstances instead is a conflict due to inconsistency that occurs between the dogmas of both classes; whereby the reality based ideals of the proletariats clashes with the idealistic values of the bourgeoisie. These conflicts in turn affect the political ideologies and actions since the politics is the arena where the battle of principles occurs, primarily due to two reasons.
The first being that these conflicts will not surface in the first place except in the political arena due to the austere nature and secondly the outcomes will not be accepted unless at a level were they are made public and irreversible. Evidence of these conflicts exists in our texts and films, however in differing contexts. In Antigone, Creon represents the bourgeoisie and Antigone the proletariats; in A Discourse on the Moral Effects of the Arts and Sciences the arts and sciences were the corrupting vales instigated by the intellectuals whilst the savage being was the unlearned and nai??
ve proletariat, and finally in Marx's Communist Manifesto where the distinctions are extremely clear among the two classes. In the course of my paper I wish to examine the strength and weakness of each of these ideal societies and their implications to political ideology and action. The values of Karl Marx's idealist communist society "may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property" (Marx, 34). He believed that once private ownership was abolished people would change, and this would finally end the history of all class struggles.
Communism to Marx was an extension or a purer form of socialism, whereby the people owned everything and everybody worked for the system, hence no form of personal interests was vested in the system. This assumption was made by placing a gamble on human behavior, probably the most unpredictable factor to place any form of wager on. Marx was assuming that among a whole class of people "no interests [were] separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole" (Marx, 33). The society that Marx visualized was one where all the citizens desired only the interests of the society by not desiring to satisfy their personal interests.
History, however, does not have a basis for pure communism where a group of people have ceased to exist without any possessions and have lived only by the idea; the closest analogy one could give would be of hunter-gatherer societies. These societies, however, existed during the prehistoric times where human attitudes and behaviours were not being constantly reshaped by the changing economic systems in which people find themselves nowadays, which Marx himself mentions as there being no such thing as fixed "human nature.
" Therefore, communism could never work because it goes against human nature. People are naturally more competitive than cooperative. Moreover, the possibility for revolution to occur where the bourgeoisie were to come down in their social status to the level of the proletariats and the proletariats rise to eminence of the bourgeoisies could only occur if human nature were to be dismantled, self memories be wiped out and in other words for the revolution to occur successfully in needs to be self induced.
Marx in an indirect manner implies how one's self worth has decreased with the current system when he discusses the dynamics of wage labour and whether it creates property for the laborer. He states that the system is self-defeating for the laborers, "which cannot increase except upon condition of begetting a new supply of wage-laborer for fresh exploitation" (Marx 34). If we were to refer back to the analogy hunter-gatherer societies the fruits of one's labour were immediate; when an individual hunted his reward was immediate and did not wait for his fruits or "live only in so far as the interest of the ruling class requires it" (Marx.
35). In short man's worth and dignity has been demoralized and "every individual has been converted in paid wage laborers… and has reduced… relations[s] to a mere money relations" (Marx, 21). Individuals were not bounded by the "social status" hunter-gatherer since everyone shared and everyone knew their worth. The advantage of this system is that it does not create any room for friction to occur because it does not include the idea of individuals desiring to wish to control the environment or vest any personal interests into the system.
This can primarily be attributed to the value the system advocates of not wishing to differentiate people under any circumstances; the system does not know race, ethnicity and differences of age and sex no longer [have] any distinctive social validity (Marx, 26), a trait of hunter-gatherer societies, which Marx so dearly desires. These values would in turn affect the political ideologies of a system trying to covert to communism by picking on the one "essential condition for the existence…
of the bourgeois class, the formation and the augmentation of capital: the condition for capital is wage labour" (Marx, 32). Therefore, the conflicts that would arise would be those that regarding wage labour and its supply; the bourgeoisie would advocate any action that would enhance the "competition between laborers" the key behind keeping a continuous supply of wage labour opposed to the proletariat's immediate aim of cutting off this supply and by doing so ensuring its immediate aim of overthrowing the bourgeois supremacy.
Any decline in wage labour would threaten the bourgeoisies' capital by reducing its turnover, hence weakening their foothold in the marketplace in turn inhibiting their ability to "constantly revolutionize the instruments of production in order to exist and survive" (Marx, 21). The bourgeoisie quest to seek a continuous wage labour would see a shift in their political ideology; they would seek to manipulate cities, provinces and other nations that are weak cause them to become dependent on them.
The consequence of such political centralization would lead to the "epidemic of overproduction," whereby the only manner in which the crises can be overcome is "by the conquest of new markets, and by the and by the more through exploitation of the old ones" (Marx, 25). However, such exploitation of markets can occur only to a certain limit, until other nations impose regulations confiding the system to resort to desperate measures and turmoil, which occurred with China.
Chinese products flooded the world market until recently and now they have been rejected entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and do not enjoy the benefits of free trade. Therefore, China have used "enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces" (Marx, 25) to decrease their output, which has lead to a lot of turmoil inside the country with dogmas of the government – political stability and international recognition – and the working class – subsistence and a better life – clashing against each other further depressing the situation. Like Karl Marx, J. J. Rousseau also painted a picture of ideal society.
In his Discourse on the Moral Effects of the Arts and Sciences he condemns how societies have succumbed to arts and sciences that have "molded our behavior, and taught our passions to speak an artificial language" (Rousseau, 6) " with the desire to please one another with performances worthy of their mutual approbation (Rousseau, 4). He believed that individuals were imprisoned in the values and ideals of society that the arts and sciences strengthened, whereby everyone followed and nobody dared to be prompted by their inner selves in order not be seen as outcasts, resulting in man losing his individuality.
In a nutshell, Rousseau believed that the arts and sciences had tainted origins and they reinforced our crimes by fostering our desire for comfort by transforming individuals into sugar coated pills, whereby "jealousy, suspicion, fear, coldness, reserve, hate and fraud lie constantly concealed under the uniform and deceitful veil of politeness" (Rousseau, 7). He in turn pictured a society were he believed man was innately pious was not restrained by society's decorum therefore abandoning the possibilities o the vices that evolve in modern societies are nonexistent.
He understood virtue in terms of bravery, courage and strength in other words he saw it in raw military power. The weaknesses in Rousseau's painting of the ideal society are the assumptions that are embedded in the question that he was addressing – "Whether the restoration of the arts and sciences has had the effect of purifying or corrupting morals? " Rousseau has to assume that there has been a revival in the arts as well as assume a relationship between abstract and applied knowledge with morality that being the human behavior and customs a society embraces.
Such assumptions lead Rousseau to base his argument on a set of contradictions. He idealized the values of the Persians, Germans and Spartans who had an unusual social structure where there was no study of abstract education, no accumulation of property and military virtues were emphasized. The idealizations of such societies contradicted his resentment for etiquette or what he referred to as the "veil of politeness", since there exists no organization whereby more discipline, etiquette or order to our "rude but natural" morals is required than military organizations.
Throughout the discourse the theme of man becoming corrupt once he enters society and losing his individuality because they "all act the same under the same circumstances alike" (Rousseau, 6) is repeatedly emphasized. This argument in itself is self-defeating because if it is the grouping of people that induces people to conceal themselves and live among uncertainty, Rousseau's ideal society would truly only function for isolated individuals since such a level of purity could not occur in the "natural" dynamics of human societies.
When individuals interact, the views and ideals of others will indeed affect the way the individual will live his life, since it is part of human nature to conform to the rules and regulations of others, which are a collection of ideals and values that compromise the principles of society. For a society to function in harmony there has to be some common ground whereby all the different members of that society must conform to and must sacrifice some of their individual ideals for the betterment of the society.
Rousseau argues that man would not have to sacrifice his own ideals if he was not placed in the blasphemies of modern societies since he assumes humans are sincerely good and everyone would approve of the actions of others. This in itself breaks Rousseau's argument since there is exists no yardstick to measure good and even if there were to exist such a measure, differences on which "good" is appropriate would in turn cause conflicts.
The simplicity of the society Rousseau describes is its initial strength; the simpler ones life, the palette on which he is to express his bad perspectives becomes less like the "American savages… who live entirely on the products of the chase… [and] yoke, indeed, [cannot] be imposed on men who stand in need of nothing" (Rousseau,5). In a society where the needs do not exceed the basic physiological, safety and social needs and are readily satisfied the room for corruption becomes minimal.
Therefore, I believe Rousseau's attack on the arts and sciences is not so much on their origins or sources but more so on how it manages to widen our needs to include self-actualization and self-realization needs, which are needs that are satisfied by luxuries and how we appear in relation to the people surrounding us; a need where the veil and corruption required to have those needs satisfied. Rousseau's painting of such an ideal society would not require a political system, however if all his assumptions were suspended the political implications would be drastic.
In politics rarely is something said literally – and in a society where the members innately believe that everyone is sincerely good, would not be capable of reading between the lines and would end up in turmoil since other nations would manipulate their naivety. Furthermore, in a society where abstract knowledge such a geometry and economics is not taught the politicians will be incapable of drawing upon actions that will be favour their society, since politics is the evil of all sciences and without a good base in its basic terminology that being the abstract sciences one will be incapable of mastering it and using it to his advantage.