The Individual and Society in the Communist Manifesto
The end of 19th century, Western Society was changing physically, philosophically, economically, and politically. It was an influential and critical time in that the Industrial Revolution created a new class. Many contemporary observers realized the dramatic changes in society. Among these were Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels who observed the conditions of the working man, or the proletariat, and saw a change in how goods and wealth were distributed. In their Communist Manifesto, they described their observations of the inequalities between the emerging wealthy middle class and the proletariat as well as the condition of the proletariat. They argued that the proletariat was at the mercy of the new emerging middle class, or bourgeoisie, and could only be rescued by Communism: a new economic form.
During the 19th century, the proletariat was at the mercy of the bourgeoisie for survival. The bourgeoisie imposed conditions that required the proletariat to work under harsh, unsafe, and unhealthy industries. Cities were overcrowded, unsafe, and hazardous due to the many factors including the smoke from the factories that clouded the skies. Earlier, Friederich Engels had described the conditions of the proletariat in the town of Manchester. He saw, “everything which here [aroused] horror and indignation [as] of recent origin which [belonged] to the Industrial Epoch”.1 Not only did the proletariat have to work in unsafe factories but also was doomed to life long misery.
Marx and Engels saw both the proletariat and the bourgeoisie as an outgrowth of feudal society. They argued that the bourgeoisie emerged as a result of exploration and discovery of new land, and the development of trade and colonization.2 These factors prompted the emergence of a new class because it allowed communication and enhanced commerce between people around the world. As the economy grew, it allowed for the expansion of a new class. In essence, they concluded that the bourgeoisie was the result of industrial capitalism. According to historian Neil Harding, “[the bourgeoisie] was a class that had been formed by the expropriation of the peasants through the spread of large scale capitalist farming and by the extinction of the artisans and handicraftsmen through the dominance of large-scale manufacture and the wholesale introduction of machinery”.3 As a result, the newfound wealth allowed this emerging class to accommodate and produce more goods. Therefore, this change in production required that the goods be produced in mass quantities.
The production of the mass quantities, however, required a mass proletariat. They became the backbone of the economy. Workers in the factories toiled long hours at minimum wages to satisfy the growing needs and demands of the markets. The poor conditions and the inequality in the distribution of goods, however, prompted the proletariat to begin to demand a...