Class Struggle and Autonomy in the Communist Manifesto

Class Struggle and Autonomy in the Communist Manifesto

Length: 1256 words (3.6 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Class Struggle and Autonomy in the Communist Manifesto

The University of Dayton emphasizes four humanities based themes to describe the essence of the human experience. Autonomy and responsibility, one of these four themes, is defined within the program as, “The individual person has the ability to make choices; with those choices comes a responsibility for the consequences of those choices.”[1] Although this definition fits well in modern American society since widespread autonomy has been granted by the Constitution to all citizens, Frederick Engels and Karl Marx observed quite a different human situation in the 19th century.

The drastic increase in productive development characterized by the industrial revolution of the 19th century brought two major sociopolitical changes to Europe by the middle of the century. First, the industrial revolution gave rise to a middle class that would eventually become the driving political and economic force throughout Europe. Secondly, the industrial revolution demanded productive entities exploit the extensive influx of people into major urban areas in order to maintain competitive advantages and meet rising demand for European goods in domestic and foreign markets; such exploitation created an extensive urban social class that had no political power and little or none economic freedom.

As these developments became more and more noticeable, Marx and Engels were prompted to write their now infamous Communist Manifesto in order to inspire what they believed as the inevitable downfall of capitalism and the bourgeoisie thus giving the proletariat something that both had stolen: their autonomy.

To truly understand this concept an examination of the two major social classes in Europe at the time is critical. However, properly characterizing the bourgeoisie has been rather problematic for scholars. Pierre Proudhon defined the bourgeoisie as a “capitalistic aristocracy” who gained their wealth through little or no work.2 Nevertheless, many scholars like Michel Lhomme assert that the bourgeoisie is simply the social class that exists consisting of numerous facets between the landed aristocracy and the lower, working class. Ultimately, what seems to be true of the bourgeoisie is that it consisted of businessmen, professionals, and state officials that were united in ushering in the emergence of a middleclass 19th century society.3 These groups were connected because they shared a set of values that consisted of ideologies that embraced basic capitalistic ideals of economic expansion, increasing the standard of living, and augmenting the complexity of society as a whole; therefore, they were united in their defiance against the traditional, static society where production was limited to habitual consumption and business organizations remained monotonous.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Class Struggle and Autonomy in the Communist Manifesto." 23 Sep 2019

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto and Its Impact on Society Essay

- Karl Marx's The Communist Manifesto and Its Impact on Society According to the humanities based themes, autonomy and responsibility are defined as “the individual person has the ability to make choices; with those choices comes a responsibility for the consequences of those choices.” [i] This can be related to the Communist Manifesto, which was written by Karl Marx in the 1800’s. Even deeper though, it correlates the class struggles that were apparent in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries....   [tags: Communist Manifesto Essays]

Research Papers
1245 words (3.6 pages)

The Influence of the Communist Manifesto on the Development of Industrial Capitalism

- The Communist Manifesto left a tremendous impact on a society that was rapidly becoming industrialized, and its effects can even be seen on the dominating economic system of the twenty-first century. In the later nineteenth century, however, industrial capitalism was on the brink of ruin. “On many occasions during the past century, Marxists have thought that capitalism was down for the count . . . Yet it has always come back with renewed strength.” Industrial capitalism succeeded in the face of communism, despite numerous economic disasters....   [tags: Communism Essays]

Research Papers
1236 words (3.5 pages)

The Class Struggles of 18th and 19th Centuries in Europe Essay

- The Class Struggles of 18th and 19th Centuries in Europe Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto in order to give a voice to the struggling classes in Europe. In the document he expressed the frustrations of the lower class. As Marx began his document with "the history of all hitherto societies has been the history of class struggles" he gave power to the lower classes and sparked a destruction of their opressors.1 He argued that during the nineteenth century Europe was divided into two main classes: the wealthy upper class, the bourgeoisie, and the lower working class, the proletariat....   [tags: History Historical Class Europe Essays]

Research Papers
1300 words (3.7 pages)

Class Struggle and the Communist Manifesto Essay

- Class Struggle and the Communist Manifesto The Communist Manifesto is profoundly marked by the history of class struggle and social inequality throughout history. In fact Marx suggests that history is in essence merely a timeline of class struggle, unchanging apart from the alteration in mode of production. The document is the story of the conflict between the Proletariat and the Bourgeois, the oppressed and the oppressor, the haves and the have nots, etc. However, this is not a new idea and Marx is really not all that radical....   [tags: Karl Marx Communism Manifesto Essays]

Research Papers
1388 words (4 pages)

The Role of Autonomy and Responsibility Held by the Bourgeoisie during the Industrial Revolution

- The Role of Autonomy and Responsibility Held by the Bourgeoisie during the Industrial Revolution During the Industrial Revolution the population was broken up into two classes; the minority was the rich, industrial middle class, the bourgeoisie, and the majority was the poor working class, the proletariat. The bourgeoisie believed in their rights to gain wealth and preserve individuality and in their duty to maintain these rights, which in turn determined the harsh laboring and living conditions of the working class....   [tags: Essays Papers]

Research Papers
1542 words (4.4 pages)

The Communist Manifesto Essay

- The Communist Manifesto opens with the famous words "The history of all hitherto societies has been the history of class struggles.” In section 1, "Bourgeois and Proletarians," Marx delineates his vision of history, focusing on the development and eventual destruction of the bourgeoisie, the middle class. Before the bourgeoisie rose to prominence, society was organized according to a feudal order run by aristocratic landowners and corporate guilds. With the discovery of America and the subsequent expansion of economic markets, a new class arose, a manufacturing class, which took control of international and domestic trade by producing goods more efficiently than the closed gu...   [tags: Communist Manifesto Essays]

Research Papers
748 words (2.1 pages)

Karl Marx And The Communist Manifesto Essay

- Karl Marx And The Communist Manifesto Because the first printing of the Communist Manifesto was limited and the circulation restricted, the Manifesto did not have much impact on society after it was written in 1848. This meant that there were not many people who had access to the document. It wasn’t until 1871, when the Paris Commune occurred, that the Communist Manifesto began to have a huge impact on the working class all over the world.[i] The Paris Commune, which was the insurrection of Paris against the French government, resurrected the idea of communism that had been banished for good just a few years after the Manifesto’s publishing....   [tags: Communist Manifesto Essays]

Research Papers
885 words (2.5 pages)

Essay about Summary of the Communist Manifesto

- During the late 1840’s the idea of Communism had risen among the European powers. Communism is the idea of “the movement that aims to overthrow the capitalist order by revolutionary means and to establish a classless society in which all goods will be socially owned.”[1] During this era the idea of a movement advancing towards the highest form of social organization and togetherness rose within the European countries. “It [communism] settles the question of men and nature, existence and essence, freedom and necessity, individual and collectiveness.”[2] The Communist Manifesto reflects an attempt to explain the goals of Communism, as well as the theory underlying the communist movement....   [tags: Communist Manifesto Essays]

Research Papers
1180 words (3.4 pages)

Communist Manifesto Essay

- The Communist Manifesto The Communist Manifesto is too long to be a concise declaration of principles and too short to be a book. It is comprised of about 17,000 words including various introductions by Friedrich Engels. It is arranged, basically, in four sections. The first section introduces the Marxian idea of history as a class struggle. It juxtaposes the conditions and development of various strata of society, "freeman and slave, patrician and plebian, lord and a word, oppressor and oppressed." It hypothesizes how the development of each of these in history gave rise to the next step in an inevitable historical process culminating ultimately in the rise of one work...   [tags: Communist Manifesto Essays]

Research Papers
1002 words (2.9 pages)

Communist Manifesto Essay

- Manifesto of the Communist Party Political Ideologies The basic thought running through the manifesto is that all history has been a history of class struggles between the exploited and exploiting, between dominated and dominating classes at different stages of social evolution. (Slavery, Feudalism, Capitalism, Socialism, Communism). This struggle, however, is believed to have reached a stage where the exploited and oppressed class (the proletariat) can no longer liberate itself from the bourgeoisie....   [tags: Communist Manifesto Essays]

Research Papers
947 words (2.7 pages)


How they eventually would come to dominate the political and social realm can best be understood by looking at the bourgeoisie in France where it was the most powerful in the mid 19th century. For it was in France where for the first time in the history of Europe where the leaders of the bourgeoisie uprooted the rule of the previous aristocracy and controlled a great and powerful nation likes France. Ironically, it seems that the bourgeoisie in France gained control more by default then by brute force or cunning diplomacy.5 After the fall of the Bourbons the old aristocracy refused to acknowledge the new July Monarchy and thus withheld support for the government. The peasants and the working class had little or no interest in politics at the time and thus the middle class was simply there to fill the vacuum that was created by the downfall of the Bourbon dynasty.6 And this was how it was throughout much of Europe when the bourgeoisie took over political and economic control. The old nobilities renounced the new forms of government that were slowly taking over Europe and the lower classes had little or no interest, or at times no power, to intervene in the political realm.

The Proletariat, the other social class that plays a significant role in the 19th century and in particular the Communist Manifesto, ironically became a significant class because of the economic system supported and advanced by the bourgeoisie. Marx and Engels recognized this phenomenon, “But with the development of industry the proletariat not only increases in number, it becomes concentrated in great masses, its strength grows, and it feels that strength more.”7 Unlike the bourgeoisie who experiences great benefit from the rise of industry, Marx and Engels are quick to accentuate that the typical worker gains nothing and in fact is forced to endure greater destitution and hardship with the advancement of industry. This single individual is therefore subject to the whim of market forces and becomes separated from his autonomy because he is incapable of exercising authority over productive capacity in his current state.8

However, Marx and Engels recognized that such confrontation cannot endure endlessly, or so they thought. They argue that inevitably the struggle between the proletariat, those that undergo devastation because of the spread of industry, and the bourgeoisie, those that receive the benefit with the spread of industry, cannot and will not last forever. They hypothesized that a coming revolution is at hand because the proletariat has become empowered by their growing numbers and growing despair to combat their counterparts. They have recognized that in order to regain their autonomy they must first unite, and then overthrow the productive forces that have imprisoned their social and economic lives.9

For Marx and Engel’s history was characterized by a systematic struggle between the current oppressed and oppressor. They argued that the oppressed in fact had little or no independence apart from the economic desires of the oppressing class because they live only as long as they remain a productive asset to the bourgeoisie.10 For them the proletariat represented the oppressed and Marx and Engels argued that they had no independence apart from capitalism. Therefore, relating these ideas as presented above back to the Humanities theme it seems safe to conclude that Marx and Engels would not have agreed that the human experience could be described by an “autonomy and responsibility” theme because the oppressed class in historical class struggles had no autonomy.

Marx and Engels did, however, assert that society was on the brink of freeing the oppressed class from this subjugation to the economic desires of the ruling class.11 They believed that communism would enable society to evolve into a quasi-utopian state where individuals would no longer be judged on the amount of capital they could produce. Concurrently, the proletariat would no longer have to be dependent on a ruling class and in fact would be able to be independent from economic entities giving society as a whole the freedom to do whatever they pleased apart from economic duties. In other words, society as a whole would eventually gain autonomy because the coming revolution would end the perpetual class struggle by ridding with world of capital production for personal gain and substitute a community based economic system and establishing universal freedom for all.

1 "What are the Major Themes of the Humanities Base?" The College of Arts and Sciences
Humanities Base Resource Website, 16 May 2001,
<> (11 April 2002)

2 Robert Lougee, Midcentury revolution, 1848; society and revolution in France and
Germany (Lexington, Massachusetts: Heath Press, 1972) 10-12.

3 Jerome Blum, In the Beginning: The Advent of the Modern Age in Europe in the 1840s
(New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1994), 203.

4 Lougee, 10-12

5 Lougee, 10-12

6 Lougee, 10-12

7 Lougee, 10-12

8 Karl Marx and Fredrick Engles, Communist Manifesto (reprint University of Dayton
Sources for the Humanities reader), 46.

9 Marx and Engels, 41

10 Marx and Engels, 42

11 Marx and Engels, 37s
Return to