“The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844″Friedrich Engels

Friedrich Engels, “The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844”, shows how laborious working class members are the main reason of industry, but they are not given the bare essentials. Engels uses both Enlightenment and Romanticism ideals, in conveying his visualization of the Machine Age in England.

Engels uses Enlightenment ideals to portray the hardships put upon the working class. He depicts the terrible conditions in which the working class had to live through, “Indeed no one can blame these helots of modern civilization if their homes are no cleaner than the occasional pigsties which are a feature of these slums (pg. 1107).” Engels connects the houses of the working class with pigsties because of all the filth and trash that they are surrounded in. This shows how the working class are living in unorthodox methods. Engels does not blame the working class because he knows that they are forced to live this way of life. Engels says that, “Capital is the all-important weapon in the class war … the poor, having no capital, inevitably bear the consequences of defeat in the struggle (1102).” Engels logically points out the real reason the working class was not able to prosper in England. Capital is the main component to which the wealthy kept, and gave very little to the workers. Thus making it hard for the workers to develop their own infrastructure. Engels reasons that the working class should be given proper living areas, and not be cast aside like pigs. He connected his ideology to what was happening in England, to prove his point.

Engels also uses Romantic ideals to exemplify England’s economic boom. Engels is awe struck by the natural beauty of London, “I know nothing more imposing than the view one obtains of the river when sailing from the sea to the London Bridge (1101).” He is captivated the scenery of the river, so much that he cannot contain his feelings for nature. But as Engels travels around England he realizes, “It is only when he has visited the slums of the great city that it dawns upon him that the inhabitants of modern London have had to sacrifice … (1102).” Engels notices that outside view of England is the sublime of nature, but the core is full of industries urbanized areas. The slums showed him the reality of how the Machine Age can alter nature, and make it inhabitable for people. Engels uses Romantic ideology to contrast how England looks inviting to the eye at first, but its core is made up of hardships and sorrow.




One thought on ““The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844″Friedrich Engels

  1. Engels’s initial depictions of London are interesting because he feels this overwhelming sense of awe–but not for nature. His awe stems from the industriousness of the city, where he talks about the vastness and quickness of it all: how “all this is so magnificent and impressive that one is lost in admiration” (1101). This almost feels a bit Romantic in its emotion, but the subject matter makes it veer toward Enlightened thinking–relaying the greatness of England through an external stimulus. Once one gets to the next paragraph, however, Engels vamps up the Romantic sensibility and he forces the reader to look on “the human suffering which has made all this possible” (1102). I find his questions to the reader to cause self reflection (of one’s moral integrity), and that appears very Romantic. He asks, “Are [the workers] not all human beings with the same innate characteristics and potentialities? Are they not all equally interested in the pursuit of happiness?” (1102). This could serve in an Enlightenment vector as well because Engels appeals to reason to humanize the working class. Overall, Enlightened and Romantic thinking are prevalent throughout the work and provide a compelling argument for the working class of Britain.

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