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A Class Conflict Immune to Marxist Ideology

April 16, 2011

In his book Ill Fares the Land famed historian and political activist Tony Judt portrays American Society in a manner that resembles Karl Marx’s interpretation of pre-communist Europe. Like Marx, Judt views society as a constant antagonism between the Proletariat and the Bourgeoisie. He argues that in America, unregulated globalization and a cultural obsession with consumption have created a growing fiscal disparity between the upper and lower classes. Since the United States imports much of its unskilled labor and consumes a great deal of cheaply made foreign products, domestic demand for working class employment is diminishing. Simultaneously, the American economy’s specialization in producing and exporting information technology has created a new necessity for educated professionals, enhancing the opportunities for skilled laborers at the expense of those for the working class. Like Russia in the early 20th Century, America is facing a social crisis. the working class is being undermined by the unregulated expansion of capitalism into the global sphere, and a culturally embedded obsession with material acquisition has made Americans apathetic to it. Judt argues that unlike the social condition of pre-communist Europe, however, America’s social problem could never be self-correcting. So long as capitalism goes unchecked by governmental regulation, he writes, the Proletariat will continue to be supplanted by foreign labor until it is displaced altogether – there cannot be a communist uprising without a domestic working class, and so the American Proletariat will not be rescued by Marxist Ideology; its continuance will fall victim to globalization. While it appears a cynical vision of our nation’s future, Judt’s conclusion does not seem unreasonable when one considers the fragility of society.

The working class is indeed a mainstay for the success of the American commonwealth, and it is certainly diminishing. If it were to disappear, it would undoubtedly be supplanted by an impoverished and largely unemployed lower class. While the creation of a predominantly destitute citizenry would jeopardize the validity of the social contract (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness would only be guaranteed to those wealthy enough to purchase them), even those citizens fortunate enough to ensure their own well-being would eventually subside; the Bourgeoisie may be able to temporarily survive off the fruits of imported labor, but the fertility of the global market is never a guarantee. If the foreign labor supply were to significantly shrink (for reasons most likely out of our government’s control), American industry would be without a sufficiently trained domestic labor force to draw from, and in time, our nation’s economy would collapse.  Thus, in encouraging American businesses to outsource their production to countries like China and India and endorsing its citizens’ immense consumption of products manufactured abroad, the United States Government is agitating an already profound class conflict and ensuring the irrecoverable degeneration of American Society.

While Judt draws similar conclusions to Marx in his analysis of American Society, he suggests that the evolution of capitalism has created a unique social circumstance in the United States that cannot be simply corrected by communist revolution. If one considers the implications of an unregulated global economy sustained by a materially obsessed American people, he must concede that the government should take action to ensure our nation’s commonwealth is preserved. Specifically, the United States Government should intervene in its nation’s economy in order to reduce domestic reliance on foreign labor. Unlike the exploitation of workers in early 20th Century Russia, the salvation of the American working class cannot be left up to revolution because the proletariat is not being oppressed – It is being extinguished.

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