The alienation of labor and bourgeois economics

Posted: 23 September 2011 in Uncategorized
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Käthe Kollwitz, "Riot" (1897)

Mary Gabriel [ht: rw] describes how, in the 1840s, Karl Marx, together with his wife Jenny, discovered the alienation of labor and the problems with bourgeois economics:

Word arrived of an uprising in the Prussian region of Silesia, where on June 4, 1844, a group of weavers marched on the home of Prussian industrialists. Their demands for higher pay denied, the weavers stormed the house and destroyed it. The next day, as many as 5,000 weavers and their families burst into homes and factories, destroyed machines, and looted and ransacked residences and offices. The industrialists called in the Prussian military, which fired on the crowd, killing 35.

The revolt was the first of its kind involving industrial workers in Germany, and though it failed, Marx recognized in it the connection he sought between an impassioned proletariat, economics and the state. The driving force behind the rebellion was not an abstraction such as religion or ethnicity or a throne, as many had been in the past, but something much more tangible: bread.*

* The illustration above is from Kollwitz’s first major series, “The Weavers,” which grew out of a performance she saw about the revolt of Silesian weavers in 1844.

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