Monday, January 20, 2014

Melodramatic Elements in the Communist Manifesto (Take 2, if that wasn't clear)

         "The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal,                  idyllic relations... It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous              enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved            personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered                      freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for                      exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct,            brutal exploitation.
          The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to                 with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of                   science, into its paid wage labourers."

   The above passage from the Communist Manifesto is a perfect example of using melodramatic grammar as effective propaganda. Marx is a master of this language, and its utilization makes perfect sense when one looks at the intended audience. Singer makes the point that as a result of modernity, the public had a sort of group-consciousness of anxiety regarding the traditional moral order. Even though Marx personally praised the bourgeoisie's accomplishment of secularization, the language he uses above is ambiguous enough that the reader--the proletarian--would have fear, anxiety, and perhaps anger over the lack of "religious fervour" that the bourgeoisie's rule (as a consequence of modernity) created. Marx hits on these melodramatic elements, because he knows, as Hartt (as cited in Singer's book) so bluntly stated "only the glaringly sensational gets through [the proletarians'] armour of stupidity to leave a vivid expression." Marx may support some of the revolutionizing the bourgeoisie enculturated, but he knows that the proletariat will not, and be stirred into action.
    In addition, Marx uses words like "halo" in reference to "occupations" to reinforce the lack of religious morality and "idyllic relations" that the bourgeoisie rule has brought about.  He is letting the proletariat know, that even if they believe that their work is honorable, through the eyes of the bourgeoisie, it is not--they are merely "paid wage labourers." They may believe also that the are not being oppressed, because the bourgeoisie is using "religious and political illusions" to veil "brutal exploitation." Marx knows and believes that much of the proletariat is being subdued by the bourgeoisie with political promises, and religious beliefs that make the proletariat dependent on their bourgeoisie masters, providing false hope and security at every turn. Marx uses the melodramatic grammar to re-expose the anxieties arising from modernity as still there, to help make his point that if the proletariat will just realize this, they can overthrow the bourgeoisie and live peacefully and happily once again, without any oppression. Humanity will be able to take charge of its good nature and thrive without worry. One question that this theory arises is about contradiction. Marx accuses the bourgeoisie of "egotistical calculation," however isn't attributing all virtue in the world to humanity egotistical in itself? Food for thought.

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