THE BIG REVOLUTION
As we well know, Britain was the leading nation in the industrial revolution. The high wages and the excess of coal (and constantly flooding coal mines) in the country inevitably led for the modernization of the working power, leading to the modern world as we know it. But the aspect that tends to be left out when talking about industrial revolution is the topic of today’s post – the working class and the social theories it created.
In 1844, a German radical thinker Freidrich Engels wrote a book about the working class in England, trying to capture the true spirit of what it meant to be a worker in a new, industrialized world. Nowadays, the book is considered one of the first works on early Marxism. Further developing the ideas of Marxism, three conditions of productions were distinguished – Alienation, Surplus Value and Commodity Fetishism.
Undoubtedly, these conditions were affecting the working class the most, in the most negative way. Just thinking about it: the workers had to be alienated from the world so they could produce more and work better for the company. This made all those people working their life away in factories nothing more than cogs in the grand machine of capitalism.
FRANKFURT INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL RESEARCH
But as capitalism grew and developed it had activated the backlash of the working class who were rising revolutions, trying to break free from the corporations. Meanwhile, the world was being torn once again by the revolutions and the rise of fascism in Germany and Italy.
All these reasons led to a group of scientists with a similar mindset come together and form an institute that would study social and historical implications of the revolution, mainly on the working class.
Starting as an institute led by Marxist thinkers, their ideas have then developed into the critical theory. Being an interpretation of the Marxist theory, it led to a reinterpretation of the mass culture.
The point of the critical theory was to understand and analyze the society (and the ruling class) using philosophy, psychoanalysis and research. With all that, they were hoping to change the western society for the better, and let the workers unite.
Eventually, the rise of Fascism made (mostly Jewish) critical theorists flee from Germany and settle in the Columbian University resulting in the Institute closing down in 1933.
Even though some of the theories produced by the Institute have now become outdated due to constantly changing society and the technological advances, the Frankfurt thinkers were right in one way. The society has become obsessed with things that are mostly unnecessary for one’s survival. Corporations create demand for new phones, which only lead to more demand for a newer version of the same phone. People buy things that they are likely to never use again because someone on TV said that they need them. The world is drowning in false needs and people are just happy they are being fed with more and more unnecessary stuff.