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The Age of Ideology: Best Study Notes

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The Age of Ideology When we review the intellectual history of the 19th century in panorama, we cannot help but be struck by the enormous profusion of ideologies that century managed to produce. Th... e proliferation of these -isms, of these grandiose systems, was the product of an age in which intellectual life had become much more complex and intense. Liberalism One of the most important of the new systems of thought was liberalism, an ideology that is closely associated with Great Britain. Utilitarianism was a strain of liberalism promoted by Jeremy Bentham. Bentham who argued that a good government is one which secures for its people the greatest happiness of the greatest number, and he believed that the best thing governments could to make people happy was to leave people alone. Laissez-faire principles often justified and rationalized the social inequality that typified the industrial revolution, because it insisted that poverty was the result of character flaws and personal weakness—in an The 1832 Reform Bill One of the strongest desires of English liberals and utilitarians was to rationalize the English voting system, which was had remained virtually unchanged since the late 1680s. By the 1830s, the nation’s economy, class system and political methods had changed immeasurably. Led by Earl Grey, the Whigs were still an aristocratic party who believed in the worth of the British constitution. They Utopian Socialism Like liberals, socialists believed that men and society could be improved, and that the application of rational principles of government would create a world in which people enjoyed liberty and equality. However, there were significant differences. Unlike liberals, socialists rejected the idea that private property is the basis of liberty, and argued instead that it is the cause of inequality and justice. Legal equality was inadequate without true social equality, and political rights along would not be enough to ensure social equality. For example, he believed that there would be 8,000 years of what he termed Perfect Harmony, in which: Androgynous plants would copulate. • Six moons would orbit the earth. • The climate of the North Pole would be milder than the Mediterranean. • The seas would lose their salt and become oceans of lemonade. • The world would contain 37 million poets equal to Homer, 37 million mathematicians equal to Newton and 37 million dramatists equal to Molière, although "these are approximate estimates." • Every woman would have four lovers or husbands simultaneously. Fourier believed that human beings loved variety, a quality he designated la Papillone. A worker quickly tires of one kind of task, just as lovers, in spite of their initial attraction, soon find themselves looking elsewhere. People needed variety in work, and also in sex. For the same reasons, he also hated Adam Smith’s vision of a society of specialists, doing the same thing over and over all in the name of the division of labor. Whatever the productive advantages of the Smith’s liberal political economy, the fact remained that it created only stunted and repressed human beings. Society should strive to eliminate all tedious or unpleasant jobs, learning, if possible, to do without the products derived from such labor However, Owen was also a radical critic of traditional family relations. He wanted his communities to abolish the family, founded as it was on private property and egoism. The family was to be replaced by the community. This idea, of course, shocked Owen’s critics and alienated his people from the neighboring villages around New Lanark. Owen was confident that his New Lanark village system would spread rapidly because first, they were based on cooperative labor and second, they could produce more than private enterprise. However, it did not take Britain by storm. He could not obtain enough capital from the government nor could he find much help from the private sector. Even working class leaders were suspicious of Owen, since he was a factory master. Communism The great prophet of modern socialism was Karl Marx. He combined the ideas of many of his predecessors, both socialist and capitalist, with others of his own, to form an ambitious new system of thought. This system has become the basis of a powerful movement as the years have passed, despite the flaws in his thinking and the errors which history has demonstrated in his predictions. Marx was born in 1818 in Treves to German-Jewish parents who had become converted to Christianity. He studied in German universities, obtaining his doctorate of philosophy while under the influence of the leading German philosopher of the day, Friedrich Hegel. Democratic views which he early developed thwarted his ambition for a university career, and thereafter he earned a precarious living as a journalist. After he married Jenny von Westphalen, he moved to Paris. They asked Marx and Engels to draft their proclamation, and the result was the celebrated Communist Manifesto. The Manifesto was the definitive statement of communist principles until the early 20th century. It said: • Societies and social epochs are defined by the way in which labor and property were organized and controlled (e.g., slave society in the ancient world, feudalism in the middle ages, capitalism in the modern era). • Each social system creates social classes based upon who controls productive property, and conflict between these social classes creates historical change. • In capitalist society, property and power is controlled by the middle class (the capitalists or bourgeoisie). • The result of capitalism had been greater productivity than ever before in history and the birth of democratic rule. • But capitalism had lived out its historical usefulness. • Capitalism had "socialized" the process of making goods by creating factories and modern industry, but it privatized the profits earned through workers labor and out it in the pockets of the capitalists, who would do all they could to protect their own power and property. • Capitalism by its very nature required the exploitation and dehumanization of the working class majority. • Human progress therefore required that the working class organize, overthrow the capitalists and their state, and establish a socialist form of government with public control over all productive property. • This would create "real" democracy—social democracy based upon the ideal of social rights and social equality. • Under socialism and the "dictatorship of the working class," social classes and class conflict would eventually disappear. • As a result, government (which Marx considered a weapon of class rule) would also wither away. (Marx called this "final" stage of human history, in which class distinctions and the state wither away, "communism.") After the collapse of the revolutionary movements of 1848, Marx moved to London and spent the rest of his life elaborating and supporting the doctrines foreshadowed in the Communist Manifesto. He lived meagerly, supported in part by a yearly contribution from Engels, and in part by acting as European correspondent of Horace Greeley's New York Tribune. [Show More]

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