How does Cloud Atlas offer an Interpretation of Marxism in a Highly Technological Society?

How does Cloud Atlas offer an Interpretation of Marxism in a Highly Technological Society?

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‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his need’ is a slogan popularised by Karl Marx to illustrate a communist society which will produce an abundance of goods and services to satisfy everyone’s needs. It is important to note the significance of differing time periods – Marx wrote in the 19th century, whilst Cloud Atlas was written in 2004. Whilst Mitchell utilises aspects of Marxist theory in his novel; unlike Marx, he explores how pertinent Marxism is to a modern and technological society.

Marxism says society has to develop through several epochs: Primitive Communism, Slavery, Feudalism, Socialism and Communism, in order to fully ameliorate the living standards of the masses and to stop bourgeoisie from turning the proletariat into their subordinates, by creating a classless society. Cloud Atlas, spanning diverse narratives from 1850 to post apocalyptic society, illustrates the progressions of these epochs. Every preceding stage, despite improving the way of life, possesses internal contradictions which ultimately lead to cataclysm, which is not necessarily negative as it allows humanity to evolve. Therefore, even the substantial failure gives a gift to the future – destruction can be positive. Taking an objective view, in order to pick out flaws, is impossible as personal bias and circumstances will always hinder the attainment of truth. Mitchell views Marxism from a modern perspective, taking into account how much technology has developed since the 19th century. Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After embodies the aspects of two different epochs. The Valleymen belong to a classless, stateless and propertyless society, only caring about basic necessities which fulfil them. According to Marx’s German Id...


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...eir escape from being enslaved by the Kona and thus revolution. However, Mitchell shows revolution is not a feasible option despite Somni-451’s words, ‘[Fantasy. Lunacy] All revolutions are, until they happen, then they are historical inevitabilities’. Linguistically, a “revolution” can be derived from the fourteenth century Latin ‘revolvere’, meaning “turn, roll back” , perhaps a more apt definition than the violent one Marx proposed. So Mitchell illustrates the relevance and impact of Marxism in a myriad of different societies. Those which Marx himself commented on and those which many thought would make Marxism wholly irrelevant; Mitchell illustrates that even the most advanced, technological societies contain conflict based on production. Cloud Atlas is all at once a millennia spanning a journey and an ode to the persistence of the ‘spectre haunting Europe’.

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