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HIST112 World Civilization II - M03: Discussion (5)

Read "The Classless Society" (textbook page 483). Why did Marx assume that the proletariat must come to power? What did he say it would do once it attained power? Is the ownership and control of "property" the only cause of class development? Was Marx a social scientist or an "ideologue"? Could it be argued that Marx himself was a product of the nineteenth-century Industrial Revolution and that his ideas mainly reflect that moment in history? Why or why not?

  1. Read "Emancipation: Serfs and Slaves" (textbook page 492). What changes did Tsar Alexander II's emancipation of the serfs initiate in Russia? What effect did Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation have on the southern "armed rebellion"? What reasons did each leader give for his action?

1. Marx assumed that the working class would ultimately come to power because, in his view, the history of the world was a history of class struggle, of those who controlled the means of production versus those who worked and had their labor exploited, and that this basic system of production was untenable. Eventually, once class consciousness was sufficiently developed and the proletariate grew tired of being exploited, thy would rise up and claim the means of production for themselves. When the proletariate of the world achieved this he believed they would, to put it basically, destroy class distinction by placing the control of the means of production in the hands of a centralized governing body and doing away with the urban-rural divide. Marx also made a distinction in a class in itself versus a class for itself. To Marx, a class in itself was one like the French peasantry of when he was writing, in that they were a class insofar as they all shared some basic realities of life and a common oppressor, but they did not come together to form anything greater than just each individual. A class for itself would be like the urban workers of Paris, who not only shared the common oppressor but also realized who their common oppressor was and fought against them for the betterment of their class. I believe that Marx was a preeminent social scientist, but that he was also incontrovertibly a product of his time. He was a man who created an ideology centered around industrial production and how it influenced the rest of society. However, so long as humanity still needs to exploit resources and produce commodities Marx's ideas will remain pertinent.

2. Tsar Alexander II's emancipation of the serfs was one of many efforts to modernize Russia and bring it up to the standards of other European nations after the embarrassing loss of the Crimean War. His edict allowed serfs the freedom to own property, of movement, and to marry who they choose, but ultimately it didn't do much for Russian serfs as even this edict of freedom was weighted against them. Their treatment would look similar to black tenant farmers in the American South after the Civil War. Legally they were free, but economically they were anything but. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, on the other hand, freed the slaves in territories that were in open rebellion, meaning he freed the slaves in Southern states but not in Northern states.

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