03 June 2010

Marx: The Modern/Industrial Age and Modernity

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the first chapter of "The Communist Manifesto" (1848):

1. On the Modern/Industrial Age:

In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves. In the Middle Ages (we have) feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs.

The modern capitalist society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. Our epoch, the epoch of the capitalist class, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms.

Thereupon, steam and machinery revolutionised industrial production*. The place of manufacture was taken by the giant, modern industry; the place of the industrial middle class by industrial millionaires, the leaders of the whole industrial armies, the modern capitalist.

The capitalist class, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of nature's forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground — what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?

2. On the nature of modernity:

Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the capitalist epoch from all earlier ones.

All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify.

All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

*The Industrial Revolution

1 comment:

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