Political Ideologies Essay, Research Paper
The Industrial Revolution marked the final and most predominate decline of Feudalism and Mercantilism in favor new political ideologies. In this politically and economically turbulent times, revolutions sprouted all over the colonized world against the institutions of the ‘old regime’. In Britain, The political stand points of Liberalism and Socialism (and the many sub-divisions thereof) developed and became practiced, while The Communist Manifesto was scribed in an underground club in London. In France, Conservatism became a largely practiced counterpart to the growing extremist Liberalism French Revolution
This large flux of ideas in the Industrial Revolution period was dubbed as the age of ideologies or “isms” by historians. The majority of these systems of thought attempted to describe a way in which an ideal (utopian) society would be created and maintained. This idealistic thought laid the foundation for the many revolutions around Europe and it’s various colonies.
In France, during it’s long and violent revolution against the then current Monarch, change was not welcomed by all people. Some believed that society was a natural hierarchical system where some were more qualified to lead then others. The part of society in France that was believed to be the natural political leaders was the wealthy upper class and the Clergy. This system of Conservatism supported the old system that had apparently worked for centuries. The violent overthrowing of a King, supposedly placed there by the will of God, seemed sacrilegious. The ideas of Individual equality seemed absurd to these supporters of the old regime. They saw the violence of the revolution as proof that no one could regulate equality. If change was to happen, the Conservatives thought it should be through a slow and evolutionary process.
The Revolutionary actions in France seemed not to dethrone a corrupt system, but unleash a violent reign of terror on the populace of France, further supporting the believes of Conservatism. To the Conservatives, The revolutionaries did not have the answers to the problems facing France and had no other plans but to keep themselves in power.
One such Conservative was Edmund Burke, an English man of state and author of ‘Reflections on The Revolution in France’ (1790), an indictment of the French revolutionary movement. In this writing, Burke commentated that the problem with the French Revolution was that it’s leaders had made promised that were impossible to keep. To an end, the revolutionary leaders offered little more then slogans. The revolutionaries’ own Constitution and Rights were ignored almost instantly after there installation in favor of self-interest. Also, the slogans and ideas the revolutionaries offered seemed to Burke redundant and unclear. No one could explain the “General Will” or “Total Equality” to a sound and specific reasoning.
In Burke’s opinion, The ideology sent out by the extremists was impractical at best. The idea that the goal of the individual and the aims of society coincide was preposterous. To Burke and all of the Conservatists in France, the stability in political power was with the knowledgeable upper class Nobles and the Clergy.
In 1848, in an underground meeting of German political refugees called the Young Communist League, The Communist Manifesto was written by Carl Marx and Friedrich Engels. In this document, a system of individual equality and public ownership was outlined. The general will of people was favored as a political leader as opposed to the will of one man. The ideology of Communism was that everyone within a society worked as hard as possible and receive as much as they needed. This was the final stage of civilization in Marx’s analysis of society. He observed that periods of political entities were broken by periods of strife. In each conflict, two classes of society clashed and the dominate class emerged. This emergence brought forth a new political structure, slightly advanced then the one before it. Marx predicted the final clash before a utopian society would be between the Proletariat and the Bourgeoisie. In this conflict, the Proletariat would emerge victorious and thus creating a classless and econmically equal society.
What Marx did not realize was that not all workers wanted the same goal in life and that the natural human tendencies of greed and lust went against his “inevitable law of history”. The influence of Communism was basically not felt in Britain, France or the Americas during the Industrial Revolution. The Communist ideology made it’s way back to Germany, the country it was originally created for, and a more right-winged formed of Socialism emerged from the German revolution. The apithamy of Communist influence was in Russia. It was there that Engels’ revised editions of Marx’s The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital laid the groundwork for the Bolshevik revolution more then a decade after Marx’s death. The created revolution was successful in overthrowing the Tzar and creating the centralized control of the USSR. This event being the one of history’s few examples of Communism at work, the USSR fell and it’s centralized state collapsed nearly a hundred years later, perhaps showing that Communism is no more immune to human error and greed then Capitalism and Liberalism.
Communism is the most extremist, left-wing branch of Socialism. Socialism is a sweeping generalization into which many ideologies share a common strand. Socialism is the belief that human planning and resourcefulness can create a system of control that will bring the people above the “natural law”. It calls for the equality of people on an economic level and the state control of private property. Since the ownership of land was the measure of title and wealth, this would be the only way to create complete equality. This belief was not new to the Industrial Revolution. Rousseau had argued that the private ownership of land created inequality far before the French revolution.
Socialist ideas were widespread throughout the Industrial Revolution, predominately in Britain. Robert Owen, a rich industrialist, created one of the greatest examples of Utopian Socialism in the Industrial Revolution. Starting with several wool mills in New Lanark, Scotland, he created a small, independent townstead with a model factory system. Owen provided his workers with improved housing and social conditions such as shorter work days, medical aid, sick leave, proper food and sanitation, and pensions. The cost of these programs were met with improved productivity. His original assumption that happy and healthy workers were on the job every day proved true and even when the market for wool fell, he could still pay his workers average wages.
The small community of New Lanark was the first to provide services like child care and a community wholesale store. Owen also helped father Britain s Factory Acts Legislation, which limited work hours, set a minimum age of employment, and lowered hours for the old, women, and children. Owen also became the President of the first Trade Union Congress and supported the first labour strikes in England.. The over all success of Owen and New Lanark seemed proof enough to many socialists in France at the time. The establishment of smaller, independent communities would be the answer to labour struggles in the large centers of France. The social evils that existed in Paris could be controlled on smaller plots.
Charles Fourier was first to propose that smaller communities be set up in France and ran through Socialism. He called these small communities “Phalanxes”. Each Phalanx would be run on strict discipline and a rigid schedule. The 1500 – 1800 members of the phalanx all worked, slept, and ate at the same time and all members had the same material possession according to the socialist manager. These Phalanxes often became dictatorships as the mangers grew more and more oppressive and controlling, creating tension in the ‘utopian’ community.
It was Liberalism that became the dominate force in the nineteenth century. Liberalism stood for the rights and liberties of the individual, the ownership of private property and freedom from government control, economically and socially. Liberalism flourished to its fullest in Britain and France, but had little effect on the other countries of central Europe. Liberalism’s influence had not spread to Russia, which was still controlled and manipulated by an elite upper class.
Liberalism believes in little or no government intervention in favor of the idea that an individual will attempt to better himself if left go on his own. One would receive what he had earned and his hard work would in turn better society. Those who did not work did not deserve any support from the rest of the working society, and their care was left to volunteer organizations. A parliamentary government was often the system of choice to Liberalists. The parliaments had abilities to pass orderly changes that form around the natural order of man’s will to better himself allowed for the general expansion of business franchise. Parliaments could also enact on the established rights of man (which only included landowning men at the time in Britain) and legislate changes in the favor of the whole society.
The diversity of the political theory that emerged during the Industrial Revolution in Europe reflects the turmoil and chaos experienced in the downfall of old systems. The revolutions spawned by the writings of various philosophers