ESSAY 11111 - Price 1 Jonathan Price 203547464 GE Cluster...

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Price 1 Jonathan Price 203547464 GE Cluster History of Modern Thought 21B Dan Crosby Section 1E Paper #1: Effect of the machine on moral and social progress. Temporal Tribulation The whole of the notion of progress is dependent upon time. Indeed, what could be more fundamental to change than its passage? The question regarding the moral and social implications of industrialization are discussed in these 19 th century texts in a way that transcends the idea of the machine as inherently good or evil. There is another agent at work, one that influences these post-enlightenment ideas about the machine: temporality. The way in which these authors perceive time alters their views on class struggle, the relation of the individual to society, and suppression of free will, leading them to come to divergent conclusions about the role of the machine in respect to moral and social progress. Although Malthus and Marx both view class struggle in a historical context, the models to which they assign society are so fundamentally diverse as to cause them to come to wildly different conclusions about the machine’s long term role in societal and moral progress. Malthus expresses his skepticism about the efficacy of human ability to change society by questioning whether or not mankind is destined for unlimited progress, or is “condemned to a perpetual oscillation between happiness and misery, and after every effort remain still at an immeasurable distance from the wished-for goal.” 1 Although human institutions appear to be the obvious cause of misery, in reality “they are light and superficial” in comparison with the “deeper-seated causes of impurity that corrupt the springs and render turbid the whole stream of human life.” 2 The machine is therefore powerless to inspire social or moral progress. The machine can only act to accelerate the problem of overpopulation and inflation by creating a means by which the masses 1 Malthus, “An Essay on the Principle of Population,” (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 9. 2 Ibid, p.75
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Price 2 may sustain themselves, therefore causing the checks on population to act that much more strongly. Increased production lends itself therefore to increased misery, a direct result of industrialization. Marx supports the view that the machine leaves the proletariat completely impoverished, in wealth and spirit, because the proletariat “becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth.” 3 In this respect, the immediate social problem of having a proletariat that is impoverished leads to an unstable society, which must be resolved before the problems of overpopulation can even manifest. Marx’s view of society is helical as opposed to cyclic in that society progresses in stages, towards the end goal of a classless society. Having temporary extreme misery is merely an inevitable consequence on the road to a more perfect society for Marx. The two separate models that Malthus and Marx
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