In the Nineteenth Century, new ideas on political theory were continuing to enter the fray: the ideas of Locke, Rousseau, and Montesquieu were being joined by the likes of Smith, Engles, and Marx. The advent of industrial society had brought certain ideas to the forefront of the social arena, including what effect industrialism and capitalism would have on society and civilization.
Adam Smith, in The Wealth of Nations, argues against a mercantilist economy, in favor of free trade and capitalistic economy. Smith postulates that when individuals act for the better for themselves, they often reward the business with the best product for the best price, as he states, “ … by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain … by [doing so] he frequently promotes that of the society … ” (Brophy p306). He then states that since the buyer is the best judge of what is the best product for his own purposes, that decision should be left up to the buyer and not the government (Brophy p306).
Robert Owen shares Smith’s positive outlook on industrial society; Owen’s A New View of Society attempts to convince “Superintendents of Manufactories” that they need not exploit their workers; indeed, if they were to invest in their workers, and make them more comfortable and happy, they would receive a profitable return on their investment, creating a win-win environment. Owen likens the workers to “living machines” (Brophy p321) , and states that they, like production machines, should be kept in good working condition, writing:
… Instead of devoting all your faculties to invent improved mechanism, let your thoughts be … directed to how to discover how to combine the more excellent materials of the body and mind, which, by a well devised experiment, will be found capable of progressive improvement. (Brophy p321)
By following Owen’s suggestion “to supply [a worker] with a sufficient quantity of wholesome food and other necessaries of life, that the body might be preserved in good working condition …” the superintendents would, in Owen’s view, “prevent an accumulation of human misery …” (Brophy p322), thus resulting in an advantageous situation for both parties.
This is in stark contrast to Saint-Simon, Engels, and Marx, who believe that capitalism can only produce exploitation and misery. Saint-Simon, in “The Incoherence and Disorder of Industry”, states that industry’s emphasis on personal gain creates a cutthroat society in which “All those pursuing the same career are inevitably enemies … and it is by ruining them that he attains personal happiness and glory” (Brophy p318). Saint-Simon continues on to say that the eventual result of such a culture is that of few winners, and “ … the complete ruin of innumerable victims” (Brophy p319). Engels corroborates the situation of such victims in The Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844: the working class in Manchester live lives devoid of basic human comforts and cleanliness, as he states, “Privies are so rare here that they are either filled up every day or too remote for most of the inhabitants to use …” (Brophy p317). As he ends his work, Engels states that his vivid, nauseous imagery “is far from black enough to convey a true impression of the filth, ruin, and uninhabitalness…” and emphasizes that “… such a district exists in the heart of the second city of England” (Brophy p317), inferring that if this misery and exploitation is present in “the first manufacturing city of the world”, then it could happen anywhere. When Engels and Marx team up to pen the Manifesto of the Communist Party, they reinforce their belief that the reason for such misery and exploitation is the bourgeoisie’s “Constant revolutionising of production, [and] uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions …” (Brophy 323) will lead to “the conquest of new markets, and … the more thorough exploitation of old ones” (Brophy p324), including the workforce.
While the debate of industrialism’s affects continued, minds such as Herder, Fichte, Mazzini, and Renan discussed the origins of the world’s nations, and nationalism as a liberating force that would sweep through Europe, or as a means of measuring a nation’s validity.
Johann Gottfried Herder, in his Reflections on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind, put forward the idea that there are no divides between peoples; as Herder states, “ … all mankind are only one and the same species” (Brophy p375). Herder theorizes that all civilizations are colored differently due to time, place, and climate, but are essentially the same at their core, as he states, “… all [civilizations] are … shades of the same great picture…” (Brophy p375). Giuseppi Mazzini’s and Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s ideas somewhat agree with Herder’s opinion: Mazzini, in Duties of Man, states that nations are defined by the design of God, according to geographical features such as rivers, mountains, and seas, but have been distorted by “bad governments” due to conquest or greed (Brophy p385). Fichte, however, in his Addresses to the German Nation, believes that the German nation is defined by everyone who speaks German (Brophy p378). Herder believes that the stronger nationalist feel the civilization had, the more successful it was, as he writes, “the more firm … the bond of union, which … connected all the members of the state … the more brilliant figure it made in history” (Brophy p376). Mazzini, on the other hand, believes that nationalism involves self-rule, and dispensing with other forms of government, as Mazzini states that, “The Map of Europe will be remade. The Countries of the People will rise … upon the ruins of the Countries of Kings and privileged castes” (Brophy p384). Fichte agrees with him, stating, “To [the German Nation of today] has fallen the greater destiny … to annihilate the rule of brute physical force in the world” (Brophy p379).
Renan, however, differs from the other writers: in What is a Nation, he states that a nation is not based on dynastic principle, nor race, nor language, nor geography (Brophy p391-3). Instead, Renan says that a nation is “a soul, a spiritual principle” (Brophy p393), made up of the commitment of those within it. Renan discusses nationalism as the measuring force of the validity of a nation; a nation that is nationalistic, or believes in itself, “ … is legitimate and has the right to exist” (Brophy p394), while, conversely, a “[true] nation never has any real interest in annexing or holding onto a country against its will” (Brophy p394). In a sense, then, nationalism is the liberating force of a people; they have the right to chose what nation they belong to, or to form their own.