Classical Soc – November 2 – Lecture 7
- Communist Manifesto
o As literature
o History as class struggle
- Marx’s piece is propaganda that’s attempting to rally the people together.
- One of the reasons that it’s so successful is that it uses key literary troupes and presents itself as
a kind of tragic comedy.
- Literary structure of the Communist manifesto:
o An ode to the bourgeoisie: feudalism → capitalism
Marx begins with singing the praises of the Bourgeoisie class.
Opening passages to the book that indirectly critiques the modern bourgeoisie.
The bourgeoisie produced massive railroads etc. they were quite successful, and
Marx presents them as the greatest class of humans to ever exist.
o The tragedy of the bourgeoisie
How they’re destined to become their own grave diggers because they produce
a new class that destroys them
Not a tragedy in the strict literary sense. In the classical sense of the term, by
being the best possible person you possibly can be, you end up destroying
yourself. Not because you’re being bad, but because you’re being too good.
The bourgeoisie are kind of like Etipus, they are the best producers of private
property, create more private property, more private property than anyone
else, and more wealth than has ever produced in history. But as they do this,
they create the proletarian society which has no wealth. They only have their
labor to sell, and nothing to lose. By being the best capitalists they can be the
bourgeoisie are hurting themselves,
o The proletarian comedy: communism
Not a comedy because it’s funny. It’s a comedy because it has a happy ending.
We’re going to go through the hell of capitalism, but eventually it’ll whither
away, everyone will work to their best abilities, and our fullest and richest
human needs will be satisfied. It will create a world in which if one person
prospers, the entire society prospers.
- Arguments of the book
o History is a class struggle
All societies are most fundamentally defined by their form of property. What it
means to possess property. Whatever social/legal definition of property they
give divides society up into classes. These classes are always at war. Treated
slaves as pieces of property.
The middle ages had a different way of dividing property. There were surfs,
guilds, churches, and the noble families. But there isn’t a developed system of
private property for sale and distribution.
The churches give a good example. When you become a priest in many
churches you get to live in a house, but you don’t get to sell it. You have
property, but it’s not private property.
Modern society has new/heightened class antagonisms. It’s between those who
have private property, and those who don’t have property, but only have their
labor to sell.
- Who are the bourgeoisie? Who are the Proletariats? o Bourgeoisie
Are basically the modern commercial industrial class.
Marx talks about their significance in six steps:
1. Feudal origins
o Commercial classes expanded markets.???
o The old feudal system (of guilds/middle ages) couldn’t keep up
with the new demand. They weren’t industrialized, and the
setup couldn’t keep up with the expanding market (which grew
with the discovery of America). (pg. 474)
o Those early commercial aspects that we saw in SMitch got this
revolutionary impulse from all these new markets being opened
up in America.
2. Political power/rise
o As they do this, they inevitably acquire greater and greater
o The state eventually becomes remade as an economic
development machine that exists to allow industry and
commerce to become as productive as possible (pg. 475)
o French Revolution was a Bourgeoisie revolutions
3. Revolutionary character
o Their character begins to reshape the world as the social classes
replace the aristocratic classes.
o Pg. 475-476
o They revolutionize all aspects of life. Always pressure to reinvent
yourself. They destroy the old aristocratic hierarchies. The
expose the aspect of self-interest underlying religious
institutions; it’s a regular human institution. It exposed the fact
that personal value is exchange value. It made us all believe that
we are only as much as we can produce for exchange. Turned
families into business ventures (people marry for property,
abandon their elderly).
o The bourgeoisie class is driven by constant innovation; nothing is
stable. This is both thrilling and unsettling because everything
you know can quickly be overturned.
o The modern person in the capitalist society could never die
happy because the world is always changing and so the person is
never complete and satisfied. Marx believes that communism
solves that problem.
4. Cosmopolitian character
o They have no roots in a fixed place. Constantly revolutionizing
yourself, seeking new markets, etc. makes you always ready to
imagine an alternative way of living. This is a very different way
of life than the past who valued stability, and local customs.