Marx did not really mean people in rural areas are idiots…

November 20, 2010

I was going over the intro of Schumpeter’s “Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy”, and I got into the part where he reviews the Manifesto, when it talks about the accomplishments of the bourgeoisie (it’s in a footnote). Then he points out the part where Marx and Engels say that the rural people live in idiocy, based on the following text:

“The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life.“ (Marx and Engels, 1848 – bold added)

I think I remember, when I read it time ago in Spanish, and the meaning is kind of lost I would say, but I don’t think I paid too much attention at it, however this time got me thinking. Where they saying that people living in small towns are stupid?? I mean it’s a small thing, but almost any sentence from Marx one has to think about it a few times.

So I wrote a friend I met at Berkeley, and asked him about it. He gave such a good answer that I’m just going to dedicate it a post for it. I asked him for permission to upload part of his email.

He answered:

“(…) About the manifesto, it’s not that he thought rural people were stupid (although I think he had an urban bias) but rather that capitalism, through urbanization and industrialization processes developed humanity’s social nature to its greatest expression in history.  He was arguing that the specifically capitalist mode of production and the urban systems it produced brought people together and compelled them to interact in ways not possible in rural regions.  The type of interaction necessary in cities under capitalism allowed for the potential for human nature to develop, with progressive intellectual and cultural production, along with the development of science and technology, reaching heights not possible under feudal relations of agricultural production.  It’s not that rural people were inherently stupid, but rather that the comparatively atomistic lives they led, with arduous and extended labor taking place in relative isolation from a large and developed civil society, and under relations of indirect exploitation of the landlords, prevented them from engaging with a broader social world.  They objectively could not pursue their intellectual and social development to the same extent (with Marx here operating under the assumption that knowledge and the intellect are socially produced and thus require social cooperation and conflict to develop).

It goes without saying that he thought the particular organizational relations under which capitalism initiated this flowering of social development needed revolutionary change.  He thought of capitalism as a progressive force that allowed intellectual and scientific change to occur through direct social contact and thus a force shattering the isolating restrictions of rural life, one that objectively socialized world production and brought everything under a totalizing mode of production.  Unfortunately, this mode of production achieved this socialization through the privatization of ownership of the means of production and as such created the potential for full development only for those who became free from the shackles of direct labor, the capitalists themselves.  Even here, however, this conflict between capital and labor internalized the potential for revolutionary self emancipation of the working class through bringing workers together under the conditions of the factory system, which he saw as capitalism’s unique technological expression.  The concentration of workers allowed for the first time a widespread recognition of the conditions of exploitation of the underclass by the underclass itself and created the potential for revolution.

Whether he was right about the isolating effects of rural life under feudalism or the revolutionary effects of urban concentration under capitalism, it’s not really about ‘stupid’ rural people, but of the objective social conditions within which rural labor has to exist.

Hope this made sense and/or helps. (…)”

 

I’m really grateful for my friends.

I was going over Schumpeter’s “Capitalism, socialism, and democracy”, and I got into the part where he reviews the Manifesto, when it talks about the accomplishments of the bourgeoisie (it’s in a footnote). Then he points out the part where Marx and Engels say that the rural people live in idiocy.

 

“The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life.“

 

I think I remember, when I read it time ago, and I took it as it was in an quasi-ironic way, and did not pay too much attention at it, however this time got my thinking. What were they really trying to say? I mean it’s a small thing, but almost any sentence from Marx one has to think about it a few times.

 

So I wrote a friend I met at Berkeley, and asked him about it. He gave such a good answer that I’m just going to dedicate it a post for it.

 

 

http://books.google.com/books?id=6eM6YrMj46sC&dq=schumpeter+capitalism+socialism+democracy&q=idiocy#v=snippet&q=idiocy&f=false

 

 

He answered:

About the manifesto, it’s not that he thought rural people were stupid (although I think he had an urban bias) but rather that capitalism, through urbanization and industrialization processes developed humanity’s social nature to its greatest expression in history.  He was arguing that the specifically capitalist mode of production and the urban systems it produced brought people together and compelled them to interact in ways not possible in rural regions.  The type of interaction necessary in cities under capitalism allowed for the potential for human nature to develop, with progressive intellectual and cultural production, along with the development of science and technology, reaching heights not possible under feudal relations of agricultural production.  It’s not that rural people were inherently stupid, but rather that the comparatively atomistic lives they led, with arduous and extended labor taking place in relative isolation from a large and developed civil society, and under relations of indirect exploitation of the landlords, prevented them from engaging with a broader social world.  They objectively could not pursue their intellectual and social development to the same extent (with Marx here operating under the assumption that knowledge and the intellect are socially produced and thus require social cooperation and conflict to develop).

 

It goes without saying that he thought the particular organizational relations under which capitalism initiated this flowering of social development needed revolutionary change.  He thought of capitalism as a progressive force that allowed intellectual and scientific change to occur through direct social contact and thus a force shattering the isolating restrictions of rural life, one that objectively socialized world production and brought everything under a totalizing mode of production.  Unfortunately, this mode of production achieved this socialization through the privatization of ownership of the means of production and as such created the potential for full development only for those who became free from the shackles of direct labor, the capitalists themselves.  Even here, however, this conflict between capital and labor internalized the potential for revolutionary self emancipation of the working class through bringing workers together under the conditions of the factory system, which he saw as capitalism’s unique technological expression.  The concentration of workers allowed for the first time a widespread recognition of the conditions of exploitation of the underclass by the underclass itself and created the potential for revolution.

 

Whether he was right about the isolating effects of rural life under feudalism or the revolutionary effects of urban concentration under capitalism, it’s not really about ‘stupid’ rural people, but of the objective social conditions within which rural labor has to exist.

 

Hope this made sense and/or helps.

 

 

 

 

 

http://books.google.com/books?id=VOfrAAAAMAAJ&dq=schumpeter+capitalism+socialism+democracy&q=idiocy#search_anchor

Advertisements

One Response to “Marx did not really mean people in rural areas are idiots…”

  1. Jason Says:

    Sounds like quite the round about explanation. I would need some quotes to back it up to make that believable or read more myself. Either way, not something I care much about :)


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: