SparkNotes: The Enlightenment: The English Enlightenment
Key People Thomas Hobbes – Pessimistic English political philosopher; argued that man in his natural state is selfish and savage and therefore a single absolute ruler is the best form of government John Locke – Optimistic English political philosopher; argued for man’s essentially good nature; advocated representative government as an ideal form The English Civil War. Seventeenth-century England endured a pair of tense struggles for political power that had a profound impact on the philosophers of the English Enlightenment. The first power struggle came in 1649., when the English Civil War resulted in the execution of King Charles I and the establishment of a commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell. The reestablished monarchy had clear limits placed on its absolute power as was made clear in the bloodless Glorious Revolution of 1688., in which the English people overthrew a king they deemed unacceptable and basically chose their next rulers. The English people rallied behind James II’s Protestant daughter, Mary, and her husband, William of Orange, who led a nonviolent coup that dethroned James II and sent him to France. In the years that followed, an English Bill of Rights was drafted, boosting parliamentary power and personal liberties. The first major figure in the English Enlightenment was the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who began his career as a tutor but branched out to philosophy around the age of thirty. In 1640, fearing that some of his writings had angered England’s parliament, Hobbes fled to Paris, where he penned a substantial body of his work. In Leviathan, Hobbes elaborates on the nature of man and justifies absolutist rule. Hobbes also claims that any group of men who ascend to positions of great power will be prone to abusing it, seeking more power than necessary for the stability of society. An atheist, Hobbes long argued that religion is useful as a propaganda machine for the state, as it is the entity most capable of reminding the ignorant masses of their role and their duties. The rules Hobbes sets forth as to precisely when a citizen may transfer allegiance to a new sovereign are unclear. The greatest criticism of Hobbes focuses on his failure to describe how totally selfish men would be able to create and maintain the covenant of the state. Hobbes avoids the errors inherent in assuming that all human beings are inherently virtuous, but he is hard-pressed to explain how humans would behave in the manner he describes if they are inherently stupid. Hobbes represents the pessimistic side of the Enlightenment and sees progress as the result of the suppression of man’s instincts rather than the granting of freedom to those instincts.
The Marxist-Leninist Theory of History
Marx’s own system contains a feature that can only be understood as reflecting the reality of capital. There is already a name for such a scale of value: It is the value of capital, including human capital. Pyramid building is labor intensive production, while automobile building is capital intensive production. Capital intensive production requires skills and knowledge, whose fruits may be effected by the industrial workers, but which may only be conceived and held systematically in the consciousness of the industralist, i.e. the Henry Ford. Even the level of capital development represented by pyramid building, whose products remain marvels of human achievement, is historically credited to one genius, the semi-divine III Dynasty architect Imhotep,. Marx’s denial of the existence and necessity of capital means that his own theory is incoherent, since it denies but does actually contain a scale of value, which we can now recognize as that of capital, to explain improved modes of production, increased productivity, and more technologically and aesthetically sophisticated products. In the end, as the workers were impoverished and the number of capitalists dwindled, the capitalists would end up with no one to sell their goods to and nothing to do with the capital derived from their profits. Labor intensive production gives way to capital intensive production, and greater capital means great productivity, not just in quantity, but in kind. Since British industry was largely involved in building railroads in Marx’s day, he seems to have actually believed that, once the railroads were built, there would be nothing for that workforce, or its capital, to do. Simply a different way of doing things represents new knowledge and new capital. The value of capital can simply evaporate in misconceived investments. Marx’s thesis of the fictional nature of capital is thus equivalent to his lack of imagination regarding what it would be possible for people to do with their capital. No. Since Marx was the kind of person who would never know what to do with capital, he did not believe there was anything to do with it. With surviving employed labor concentrated in large corporate entities, and the capitalists left with nothing to do with their capital and few consumers with the means to purchase capitalist production, the revolution would more or less happen of itself when the system collapsed in a panic of banks and investors. Although nominal wages were falling in the United States from 1865-1897, apparently in line with Marxist expectations, real wages were actually rising, and there didn’t seem to be a problem with over-production or with capital investment.