Thursday, January 23, 2014

Marx, Melodrama & the Manifesto (Re-visited)

The Communist Manifesto is a highly melodramatic document. In this melodrama, the proletarians are the misrecognized, victim heroes and the bourgeoisie are their oppressors. Ben Singer notes that melodramas "reflected the revolutionary shift in political and ideological power”, like the revolutionary shift in power from the bourgeoisie to the proletariat. 

The melodrama employed in the Manifesto is tragic. Though Marx and Engels recognize the bourgeoisie to be an incredibly successful revolutionary class, they state that their particular success also dooms them to failure. The bourgeoisie were able to, in a "series of revolutions in the modes of production and exchange”, successfully establish Modern Industry and capitalism. This capitalism “ configured society as a chaotic conglomeration of competing individual interests” and unleashed horrifying forces of modernity, such as “poverty, class stratification and exploitation, job insecurity, workplace hazards, and heartless contractual systems of housing and money-lending” (Singer). 

Marx and Engels melodramatically describe the bourgeoisie establishment of capitalism as a victimizer of proletarian wage-laborers: 

“Modern Industry has converted the little workshop of the patriarchal master into the great factory of the industrial capitalist. As privates of the industrial army they are placed under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers and sergeants. Masses of labourers, crowded into the factory, are organised like soldiers.  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 and Engels point out that it is because the Bourgeoisie has “enslaved” the proletarians together in an “industrial army", they have unknowingly enabled them to rise up as a revolutionary class capable of overthrowing the bourgeosie. They claim that "with the development of industry, the proletariat not only increases in number; it becomes concentrated in greater masses, its strength grows.” Thus the class stratification brought about by modernity and capitalism, which the bourgeoisie support, paradoxically plays a role in their downfall.  

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