When Thomas More published Utopia in 1516, he raised many interesting ideas concerning society, politics, and religion. Many of the ideas that he puts forth in the book are socialistic. However, this does not mean that More advocated the socialist position. The book is written as satire. More creates a vision of a complex socialistic society to show people how ludicrous life would be if they lived in his so called Utopia. The book was obviously aimed at educated readers who could deduce his sly writing techniques. So was More running the risk of causing uproar from the church or the governing authorities? I do not believe so. If anyone had any qualms with his work he could always point out that the main character of the story’s (the man who describes the Utopian land) name was Hythloday. Which in English means, “talker of nonsense”.
In 1516, political philosopher Thomas More published a book called Utopia. The novel is a satire and at the time it was aimed at literate people who would understand his writing style. The book centers on a traveler whose name is Raphael Hythloday. From Greek roots his name is means talking nonsense. Raphael tells his story in a fictional land called Utopia. At first the policies of the land that Raphael describes seem to make sense; however, as his tale progresses in the book he advocates the practices of the land, which are absurd. Raphael tells of Utopia’s hatred of private property rights. He describes Utopia as incredibly socialistic society much like that of Marx or Lenin. Raphael sees Utopia’s as the ideal society. The book is meant to show the reader just how ridicules realistic socialistic truly are. By having Raphael’s tale become gradually layered with communist theory after communist theory, the reader is meant to say to himself “this is pure nonsense”. The novel is a prime example of satirical literature.
Martin Luther was the chief catalyst to the eruption of the Protestant Reformation. His 95 Theses, which were published in 1517, was the document in which the movement truly began to take shape. In the Theses Luther attacks the buying and selling of the Catholic indulgences. Let it be known that Luther raises excellent points, however, as someone reads the Theses they will notice a number of problems with his arguments. Among illogical contradictions and a stern belief in Christianity being a works based religion, Luther believed that the Pope was unaware of the acts performed by the indulgence salesmen. In Luther’s opinion the Pope was a bystander and he would be on his side if he knew of the selling indulgences. Now, the question arises did Luther truly believe that the Pope was completing unaware of the indulgence situation. Could it be that he did not attack the Pope because he did not want to raise too much controversy in his first written document? My opinion is that Luther was just breaking away from Catholicism and he had not had his theology fully flushed out at that point. I believe he thought the Pope would have been on his side. Luther would realize how wrong he was in about a year. And as he progressed in his theology he would correct most of his previous opinions from the 95 Theses.
Historian Richard Pipes once wrote, “Soviet Russia was the first society in history to outlaw law.” This statement is a little tough to wrap your head around the first time you read it. However, what he means by this is that after the Bolsheviks took command of Russia they stated that all legal codes were unpatriotic. They told the Russian people that all of that legal mumbo jumbo was basically bourgeois and they did not need it anymore. Vladimir Lenin told the judges at that time to rule with their revolutionary conscience. What in the world is a revolutionary conscience! What this basically means is that the judges in Russia would be ruling in court arbitrarily. What was even worse with the Russian legal system was that judges did not even require legal training. Lenin decreed that if you could read and write then you were qualified. All of this seems like a madman’s plot to destroy his own nation. While Lenin was probably mad, this plot still served him a strategic purpose. It was Lenin’s goal to make the Russian judiciary system a court of terror. The court was meant to legitimize terror inside Russia. The entire idea of outlawing law was just another of Lenin’s plans of keeping the people in check.
Surely everyone knows that the cause for the First World War was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in June 28, 1914. However, to say that this assassination was the sole cause for World War 1 would be to disregard all that really happened. In all honesty Franz Ferdinand was not a very likeable politician at the time. For him to die would not entail world war. In all actuality it was Austria’s hatred of Serbia that really started the war.
A terrorist group known as the Black Hand carried out the assassination. Although it was not carried out directly by the Serbian government, Austria knew that the Serbs were well aware of what was going to unfold. Although Ferdinand was not a popular political figure (infact he was mostly disliked by his piers), Austria saw an opportunity to wage war on its enemy as an aggressor who wasn’t just a warmonger. They would be responding to the assassination and all the nations of the world would see them as the good guys with a glorious cause.
However, what Austria did not expect was that their aggression towards Serbia caused a cascade of allies to enter the war one by one. France, England, Russia, and Italy joined Serbia, while Austria was joined by Germany, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire. Each country saw Austria’s war as an opportunity to gain some benefits to satisfy their own interests or they were pulled in due to treaties with the belligerents.
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was meant to be just a simple act of terror. He was not a powerful political figure to cause war. However, through the political actions of war conducted by Austria all the rest of the world powers for one reason or another jumped into the frenzy. And thus began World War One.
In the 19th century there arose yet another movement that changed the way people perceived the entire world. This movement was known as Modernism. Unlike Neoclassicism its predecessor, who provided an emphasis on simplicity, order, and rationality, Modernism intended to break away most of the tenants of Neoclassicism.
It is easy to understand what modernism really is by looking at these key figures in the history of modernism. Friedrich Nietzsche’s works show a departure from the Neoclassical and enlightenment period in Western Civilization. Nietzsche’s three main philosophical ideas were:
The Übermensch was his way of saying that there will be a certain group of individuals, who will rise above mans common conception of morals. These men will create their own morals and use them to rule over all individuals. Therefore, they would be like gods among men. Likewise, in his parable titled the Madman Nietzsche tells the tale of a “so-called” Madman who runs into a public square and announces the God is dead. This Madman claims that he and all those around him were God’s murderers. It is in this way that Nietzsche is more of a profit than a philosopher. His idea of the Übermensch is more of a prediction than theory. Nonetheless, he is considered to be a major figure in the movement of modernism, as his views hold a very atheistic and gloomy tone contrary to the views of many Neoclassical and Enlightenment figures.
In literature we can observe writings of men like Franz Kafka (1883 – 1924). While writers of previous periods chose to structure their novels in a manor that obeyed rule and form common to writing at that time, writers like Kafka structured their novels in an entirely strange new way. Take into consideration the opening to Kafka’s 1915 novella The Metamorphosis,
One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin. He lay on his armour-like back, and if he lifted his head a little he could see his brown belly, slightly domed and divided by arches into stiff sections. The bedding was hardly able to cover it and seemed ready to slide off any moment. His many legs, pitifully thin compared with the size of the rest of him, waved about helplessly as he looked. (pg 1)
This book opens right in the middle of conflict. Previous authors would have structured stories in a manor such as beginning, middle, and end. Kafka chooses to go straight for the jugular and begin his book right in the middle of conflict. It is in this way Kafka breaks away from the pack and embraces a new wave of writing found solely in Modernism.It is truly remarkable how every hundred or so years a new movement pushes aside the ideas and ideals of an old one.
The term Kulturkampf is a German word, which refers to a series of legislation passed by Otto von Bismarck of Prussia in the 1870s. This legislation focused on silencing protests against the government from the Roman Catholic Church. From the year 1871 through 1878 Catholics felt as if they were being persecuted.
It was Bismarck’s intention to unify Prussia. This would be an incredibly hard task to undertake if religious parties such as the Catholics were to say as they wish. Bismarck went about his persecutions by passing laws such as these:
- All priests were taken off of the state payroll.
- Church’s no longer had control over schools.
- Church’s no longer had jurisdiction over marriage. Basically, marriage had to be supervised by the state.
- Any priest or bishop who protested could be put in prison.
- Religious orders such as, the Jesuits, the Franciscans, and the Dominicans were expelled.
- Also, the training and appointing of church clergy was to be controlled by the state. This one was a major blow to the independence of the church.
- Finally, Bismarck assembled a plan to work with other European Powers to rig papal elections. However, Bismarck’s plan did not come to fruition, as no one was willing to give Bismarck the support he needed.
Bismarck’s oppressive rule over religious orders was finally put down in 1877. A political party known as the Center Party won the majority of seats in the elections of that year. This Center Party had been sympathetic towards the Catholics since its foundation, thus Bismarck was forced to back off.
During the 18th and 19th century the world went through the marvels of the industrial revolution. This event raised the standard of living for all people at the time. This revolution shortly transitioned into what is known as the second industrial revolution (or as it is sometimes called, the technological revolution). This revolution ended shortly before the First World War.
A major component of this new revolution was the Bessemer process. Named after its inventor Henry Bessemer, this process was the first inexpensive means by which companies could mass-produce steel from molten pig iron. This process affected other industries in major ways. For instance, railroads cashed in on this newfound gold mine. It became clear that steel rails were more durable and lasted longer than iron rails. These heavy steel rails could support heavier trains with longer loads, thus allowing the world of transportation to reach a whole new level.
Another key innovation in the second industrial revolution is electricity and the foremost figure being Thomas Edison. Although incandescent light bulb had had numerous inventors, Edison invented the most successful form of the incandescent light bulb. Along with the incandescent light bulb there began the rise of central power stations. These stations provided lighting for cities at night. It is easy to see how this revolution drastically changed the nightlife of major cities. People could now go about there activities at night just as well as at day. Maybe for men of the modern day it would not be that big of a deal, however night lighting was and aspect for people in this revolution that changed lives.
Among all economic theories Marxist Communism is one of the most facetious. Although there are many problems with the theory, here are just two. It was Marx’s opinion that in a communistic society every person would have more autonomy. As I stated in the previous post,“Since Marx hated the division of labor, no one would have to be forced to work in a job that he was good at. This man could do what ever made him happy, thus giving him more autonomy.” What Marx completely forgot to mention was that every society would have central planners. To ensure that the society would produce the max amount of wealth it could, the planners would dictate the distribution of wealth and the job of every individual. The idea of central planners contradicts the very thought of an individuals autonomy.
It has been established that autonomy will not exist in a communistic society. The central planners will provide for the needs of all the people. If this were true, than that means these planners would have plenty of work to do. New York City has a population of around 8 million people, Los Angeles has a population of around 3 million, and Chicago has about 2 million, that is a lot of people living in a city. How in the world could a small fraction of millions of people determine the needs of the entire collective? There are bound to be drastic mistakes. This is the reason why communistic countries are dirt poor. They have inefficient economies due to central planners.
Although Marx dream of a society that would increase wealth and peace, it only results in poverty and chaos. In the end, Marx’s communistic dream is nothing more than a nightmare.
Although socialistic theories had existed for centuries, there is one man who became the backbone of all socialistic thought. This man is Karl Marx, who lived from 1843 to 1881. Most socialistic leaders or philosophers have drawn (or draw) their ideas from Marx’s books such as,The Communist Manifesto or Das Kapital. It was Marx’s opinion that his socialism was superior to capitalism for the following reasons,
- Higher rate of production. A socialistic society will produce more wealth than a capitalistic one since it would have a plan. Social planners would work together to find the most productive setup for their society instead of having people just do, as they want with their property.
- More autonomy. Since Marx hated the division of labor, no one would have to be forced to work in a job that he was good at. This man could do what ever made him happy, thus giving him more autonomy.
- Lighter workload. There would be more leisure time for everyone as well. This would be because every one in the society would have to work. Everyone including the big business owners, who according to Marx just sat in their offices all day and smoked big cigars laughing at all the little people they exploit. These men would be forced to work like every other man; hence the workload would be smaller for everyone.
This is Marx’s socialistic theory in a nutshell. It has been debated over for centuries and was tried in Communistic Russia, however it eventually failed.