Marx’s Communist Manifesto and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

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Marx’s Communist Manifesto and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

From social relationships to political power structures, all aspects of society were changed by the technology innovations of the industrial revolution. Manufacturing goods on a mass scale led to the development of an entirely new worker who’s success now depended on his ability to operate machines rather than his talent as a craftsman. The steam engine revolutionized modes of transportation: trains and railroads were implemented everywhere and steamboats facilitated cross-oceanic trade and exploration. In developed nations, agriculturally based economies gave way to manufacturing and trading economies as feudal systems were replaced by democratic societies. What allowed for this shift? According to Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1832), the equality supplied by democracy is what facilitated the entrance into this new economic and political era. Furthermore, Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness are both texts written in response to the changes resulting from the industrial revolution. Both Marx and Conrad’s writings have a common concern: the theme of oppressors and oppressed. This tells us that at that time more than ever, inequality was an issue to be reckoned with. This contradicts Tocqueville’s prediction that society is constantly and permanently moving towards a general leveling. From these three authors, we are allowed to see an inherent paradox in the equality of conditions supplied by democracies: while democracy was the means that allowed feudalism Ñ a system where inequality was blatantly obvious Ñ was replaced, the class structure and political consequences (i.e. imperialism) of this new system were, acco...

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...uropeans, Conrad is perhaps suggesting that the title of the book is in fact a reference to the European because they, as oppressors, force natives into an oppression they know to be incoherent and problematic as suggested by Marlow’s thoughts when seeing a native die before him: "to look at him was as edifying as seeing a dog in a parody of breeches and a feather hat walking on his hind legs" (38).

List of Works Cited:

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Edited by Robert Kimbrough. Third Edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1988.

Marx, Karl and Engels, Frederick. The Communist Manifesto. Edited by John E. Toews. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1999.

Sheehan, James J. Lecture 9. Stanford, 01 Febuary, 2000.

Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America. Translated by George Lawrence and edited by J.P. Mayer. New York: Harper Perennial, 1998.

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