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Marx and Nietzsche

Essay by review  •  August 24, 2010  •  Essay  •  4,156 Words (17 Pages)  •  1,649 Views

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Society is flawed. There are critical imbalances in it that cause much of humanity to suffer. In, the most interesting work from this past half-semester, The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx is reacting to this fact by describing his vision of a perfectly balanced society, a communist society. Simply put, a communist society is one where all property is held in common. No one person has more than the other, but rather everyone shares in the fruits of their labors. Marx is writing of this society because, he believes it to be the best form of society possible. He states that communism creates the correct balance between the needs of the individual and the needs of society. And furthermore thinks that sometimes violence is necessary to reach the state of communism. This paper will reflect upon these two topics: the relationship of the individual and society, and the issue of violence, as each is portrayed in the manifesto.

Before expounding upon these ideas, it is necessary to establish a baseline from which to view these topics. It is important to realize that we as humans view everything from our own cultural perspective. Marx speaks of this saying, "Your very ideas are but the outgrowth of the conditions of your bourgeois production and bourgeois property, just as your jurisprudence is but the will of your class made into a law for all, a will, whose essential character and direction are determined by the economical conditions of existence of your class."

With this in mind, some perspective on the society of that time is vital. During this time the industrial revolution is taking place, a massive movement away from small farms, businesses operated out of homes, small shops on the corner, and so on. Instead, machines are mass-producing products in giant factories, with underpaid workers. No longer do people need to have individual skills. Now, it is only necessary that they can keep the machines going, and do small, repetitive work. The lower working class can no longer live a normal life following their own pursuits, but are lowered to working inhumane hours in these factories. This widens the gap between the upper and lower class-called bourgeois and proletariat-until they are essentially two different worlds. The bourgeois, a tiny portion of the population, has the majority of the wealth while the proletariat, the huge majority, has nothing. It is with this background that Marx begins.

First, the topic of the individual and society will be discussed. This topic in itself can be broken down even further. First, the flaws with the "current" system in respect to the bourgeois and proletariat will be shown, which will reveal the problems in the relationship between individual and society. Secondly, the way that communism addresses these issues, and the rights of the individual, as seen through the manifesto, will be elaborated on in great detail.

Quite clearly, Marx is concerned with the organization of society. He sees that the majority of society, more specifically, the proletariat, are living in sub-human conditions. Marx also sees that the bourgeoisie have a disproportionate amount of property and power, and because of that, they abuse it. He writes of how the current situation with the bourgeoisie and proletariat developed. "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." There has always been struggles the between two classes, an upper and lower class. However, Marx speaks of the current order saying,

"It [bourgeois] has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones. Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinctive feature: it has simplified the class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat."

The very nature of the bourgeoisie causes it to grow in size and power while the proletariat shrinks, therefore increasing the gap between the two. Marx goes on to describe how this situation came about, with the industrial revolution and other factors.

Modern industry has established the world-market, for which the discovery of America paved the way. This market has given an immense development to commerce, to navigation, and to communication by land. This development has, in doing so, reacted on the extension of industry; and in proportion as industry, commerce, navigation, railways extended, in the same proportion the bourgeoisie developed, increased its capital, and pushed into the background every class handed down from the middle Ages. We see, therefore, how the modern bourgeoisie is itself the product of a long course of development, of a series of revolutions in the modes of production and of exchange. With these thoughts in mind, a more defined view of the individual classes can be attained. First, the proletariat: in several places Marx speaks of how the proletariat is oppressed. He speaks of past societies and the current society when he says, "Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressedÐ'..." Bourgeoisie and proletariat could quite easily be added to this list of oppressor and oppressed. In every way the proletariat is oppressed, with no hope of improving their place in society. Rather, they are forced to live on hopelessly, knowing that they will not be released from their labors till death. Marx also writes of the relationship between the proletariat and the machines, which is a result of the split between the bourgeoisie and proletariat.

"He [proletariat] becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simply, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of himÐ'...Not only are they slaves of the bourgeois class, and of the bourgeois State; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the overlooker, and, above all, by the individual bourgeois manufacturer himself."

Marx draws a picture of how the majority of the population is in an oppressed situation of slavery. The people of the proletariat are not to be envied. From here, Marx moves on to describe the oppressor, the bourgeois. He is quite eloquent in his description of this class:

The bourgeois, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his 'natural superiors,' and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous 'cash payment.' It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism,

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