The Age of Revolutions, Industrialization, and Nationalism, 1750-1898
CHAPTER 6: Among the numerous authors in this chapter, who are the proponents of democracy? How do they defend their views? Who are the opponents of democracy and how do they defend their views? What factors might account for the different perspectives on democracy? Which perspective do you find the most persuasive?
When taking a look back at the authors cited in the text, one can see a trend of those who are supporters of democracy, as well as those who oppose it. With this in mind, it is relevant to specifically discuss some of these authors and their respective points of view.
Initially, one of the true champions of democracy emerges early in the text in the person of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence as well as one of the founders of the United States of America. According to Jefferson’s point of view, freedom of the individual is something which is essentially given to every human being at birth, much like genetic makeup. Therefore, for Jefferson, democracy is something that cannot be taken away under any circumstances (Sanders). Conversely, in some ways, a fair argument can be made that slavery opponent Frederick Douglass can be seen as an opponent of democracy, not for what men like Jefferson preached, but what they practiced. In other words, Douglass was a critic of an American democracy which claimed to provide equal opportunity and freedom for all, yet enslaved African-Americans for profit and prosperity (Sanders).
In the final analysis, it would seem that the differing views on democracy came not so much from what democracy promised, but what it failed to deliver. As a personal aside, there is a compelling argument to be made that if Jeffersonian democracy were allowed to exist as presented, the United States and other nations like it would have been spared a great deal of hardship, bloodshed, and would have progressed much more smoothly than they did.
CHAPTER 7: Adam Smith and Karl Marx seem to differ sharply on the issue of human competition. Explain how each man might assess the causes and consequences of competition. What significant factors, such as historical events or theoretical assumptions, might account for their differing views?
Looking back at Adam Smith and Karl Marx from the retrospect of history, one can see sharp differences between the two in regard to human competition, especially in terms of the causes and consequences of competition.
For Adam Smith, one needs to understand that human competition is something which he felt was a useful means by which the industrial base of a nation prospers due to the great deal of effort that workers put in to being the most productive, highest paid workers possible. This competition, in Smith’s view, was created by a variety of factors, including a rising domestic population, increased supplies of natural resources to be used in producing goods, and the rising demand for goods as dictated by population growth, not to mention such innovations as the invention of the steam engine, which opened up an entirely new realm of industrial progress not only in England, but across the globe (Sanders, et al). Thus, for Smith, human competition is a highly desirable by-product of a growing, healthy economy.
In contrast to Smith, Karl Marx in fact saw human competition as one of the evils of society, for in his mind, this activity only increased the abuse of those at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale by those higher up in the socioeconomic pecking order (Sanders, et al). Marx assumed in his thinking that the worker would not possess the intelligence or common sense to avoid manipulation at the hands of those who managed or owned the factories, mines and mills of the world. For Marx, the Industrial Revolution that was transforming the world, in his mind, should have been replaced by a worker’s revolution, whereby workers would be the leaders.
3. CHAPTER 10: What is nationalism? What historical forces promoted the development of nationalism and nation building in each of the three case studies?
Nationalism is a term which has been used with such regularity in a variety of ways that very few people can define, let alone understand it. Simply put, nationalism is the dominance of a national identity over a state, regional, local or any other (Sanders). Perhaps just as interesting as the idea of nationalism are the variety of historical forces which have promoted the development of it.
Europe is generally accepted as the birthplace of nationalism; overall, this nationalism was born as the result of historical forces including natural rights theory and the concept of the social contract. It was these types of forces which led to the French Revolution of the 1790s for example, which sent a strong message which told all that could hear that the power of a national government is more powerful than any monarch who would install himself or herself as the focus of national identity. For the United States, the massive waves of immigration from Europe and elsewhere in the late 19th and early 20th century would lead to a strong sense of nationalism in America as well. Around this same time period, nations like Japan were essentially thrust into nationalism under pressure from foreign influences which wished to see the ancient imperial system of government replaced by something which would appear more democratic. Yet another example cited in the text is that of Germany, who also embraced nationalism in the late 19th century as opposed to being identified merely as a subset of the European continent (Sanders).
Generally speaking, what is seen in these efforts to nationalize is a shift from autocrats ruling a given nation or for a nation to break free from its continental identity to form a new national face.
Sanders, Thomas, et al. (2005) Encounters in World History: Sources and Themes from the Global Past. Volume 2: From 1500. New York: McGraw Hill Companies.
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