The Inevitable Role Of Marxist Ideals And Mass Psychology In Modern Day American Society
Karl Marx and Gustave Le Bon were philosophers from a distant time. Whilst Marx tackled issues of class and revolution, Le Bon focused on a crowd’s mindset within a mass society. These two philosophers seem to hold different ideals, at first. However, with a closer glance, it is easily to see a burgeoning overlap in concepts. In a world where social media constantly shifts our minds and each person clings to their personalized feeds. Marx’s notion of revolution is more easily spread. Similarly, Gustave Le Bon’s idea of Mass Psychology helps promote such ideals. This can be seen in the Arab Spring revolts. Now this is both positive and negative. For people are subjected to specific ideas and depend on others for them.
Furthermore, others depend on you for information. Greed is perpetuated by the influx of luxurious icons displaying their fantastical lives. It makes us, the 99%, think that sex, money, and other glorious assets will enable and preserve true happiness. Marx would argue that these materialistic lusts help the elite upper class manipulate, or control the proletariat. Le Bon shows us that when the upper elite class displays certain luxuries to a crowd, or social media feed, it is hard to ignore. Lastly, exploitation of the working man is seen still today. Not only through social media fanaticisms. Companies hire large working forces for minimal pay, in an attempt to increase their earnings. Union enrollment has diminished incredibly. Leaving workers in desolation, vulnerable to corporate puppet masters. Marx proved this this is not some grand scheme against those in power. This is all part of a class struggle which has always been in existence.
As capitalism has always been in existence in some form. A prehistoric example being, I trade you obsidian for flint. Le Bon’s ideas further comfort Marx’s, by showing that the corporations, as herders, must not lead their flocks astray, or working people. These very brief outlines of technology, materials, and exploitation, show that there are issues in our society. While times have certainly changed and we are no longer living in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. I cannot help but feel that, at some level, Marx’s and Le Bon’s core beliefs can help us direct positive legislation and social policies our government. Whether or not it is through means of revolution, will be decided by the people within due time.
When one applies Marxist ideals to modern day society, it can be incredibly misleading. First of all, the notion of the bourgeoisie, as it existed in the 1800’s, does not directly apply to the existing bourgeoisie in the United States. Thus, when I reference the bourgeoisie, I will be referring to largely the upper elite class. Whilst the Middle class does at times aid in the deterioration of the working and lower classes. Parts of the middle class aid incredibly in revolution efforts. Thus, this part is the petite bourgeoisie. It is their duty as the petite bourgeoisie to educate the working and lower classes. With media outlets such as facebook and Twitter, it gets increasingly easier to share ideas to a widespread public. However, on social media, people battle between their “alternative facts,” instead of finding real truths.
Donald Trump caused this media stir to manipulate less educated, hopeful peoples and the ones already lost to bigotry. “Just as it has made the country dependent on towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on civilized ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West.” [footnoteRef:1] Through this manipulative tactic, the petite bourgeoisie has less control of the knowledge being assimilated into the populace. Causing the working class, during last election period, to support their oppressors. We need a ginormous change, we need people to acknowledge that there are certain truths in this world that have no alternative facts. One can be politically correct, but not on all issues. We need to clearly make that divide. [1: Engles/Marks, Frederick/Karl. The Communist Manifesto. New York, New York: International Publishers, 1979. 12.]
In all Capitalistic nations a class gap is inevitable. This is due to the pre-existing hierarchical structure that capitalism supports. People have always been placed into economic categories. When we break out of these categories through means of revolution, little by little economic change is brought to the classes. However, in a predominantly capitalistic society, when standards of living are reset, the class structure remains barely altered. Now in America we have managed to build a huge, powerful middle class. However, the distribution of wealth remains gross to a point where about 5 companies own most of the food sold around the United States.
The CEO’s have so much control and others are left to climb through their corporate ranks in hopes to achieve their own success. “The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.” [footnoteRef:2] Because a father or mother might be climbing these corporate ranks. Working hard, long hours just for materialistic happiness. Their children are usually left to their own devices absorbing their similar materialistic lusts. Corporations need to be held accountable for their long term disparagement of communities. Instead of turning a blind eye and finding loop holes. [2: Engles/Marks, Frederick/Karl. The Communist Manifesto. New York, New York: International Publishers, 1979. 11.]
Today, people need to organize working unions again. Companies pull workers under their arm, as if buddies, offering them better benefits and possibilities to “grow” by climbing their looming ladders. When these benefits are merely half of what labor unions could achieve. Instead of focusing on what went wrong with unions, we should be actively thinking about how we can make them progressively better. People working long hours for years at a corporation should have time to enlighten themselves.
However, with little to no union involvement. People just want to go home relax on social media or watch TV. Instead of striving to break out of this mold. “The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its pairs wage-laborers.” [footnoteRef:3] [3: Engles/Marks, Frederick/Karl. The Communist Manifesto. New York, New York: International Publishers, 1979. 11.]
When we are grouped together with many people, our ideas start to shift. When scrolling on facebook our feed is filled with memes that use persuasive comical rhetoric to influence different audiences. Both positively and negatively, interactions through memes are completely different than in real society. This enables a whole different means of communication through humans. However, it goes to prove that Gustave Le Bon’s notion of Mass Psychology parallels here. “…the fact that they have been transformed into a crowd puts them in possession of a sort of collective mind which makes them feel, think, and act different from that in which each individual of them would feel, think, and act were he in a state of isolation.” [footnoteRef:4] Unfortunately, people on social media search for the next big “fad meme” and blow it out of proportion. This creates a society which revolves around scrolling and, or retweeting to find such a thing. Rarely is originality seen and it is incredibly needed. [4: (Perry, Marvin, and Howard E. Negrin. Sources of the Western Tradition. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2018.)]
Today people are told they must recycle to stop the impending climate disaster. I would ask why this should fall on us? Most businesses in the United States are owned by larger corporations. These corporations like Cargill, have a huge portion of the money in our society. They should be able to invest in manufacturing non-plastic water bottles, as the technology is readily available. Even employing as many people as they do, these companies surely have the means to support this ideal when joined together.
However, due to greed they wish to earn a higher profit margin. I genuinely believe people are so used to recycling, that they would not question if it could be avoided. As society tells them it is the way they can do their part, in helping to save the environment. “… [An] individual [immersed] for some length of time in a crowd in action soon finds himself in a special state, which much resembles the state of fascination in which the hypnotized individual finds himself in the hands of the hypnotizer.” [footnoteRef:5] [5: (Perry, Marvin, and Howard E. Negrin. Sources of the Western Tradition. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2018.)]
If you talk about a specific topic for five to ten minutes in front of your phone or computer and log into facebook, there will be ads generated based off of the topic. This exploits the working class to get participate in meaningless games, such as FarmVille or Candy Crush. Spending money on useless micro-transactions. Or to maybe shop for those new Jordans. “Such also is approximately the state of the individual forming part of a psychological crowd. He is no longer conscious of his acts… He is no longer himself, but has become an automation who has ceased to be guided by his will.” [footnoteRef:6] Besides materialistic exploitation, these ads exploit the users mind. Recognizing ads based on what is said, should be a toggled feature. Otherwise personal privacy is invaded. [6: (Perry, Marvin, and Howard E. Negrin. Sources of the Western Tradition. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2018.)]
Marx and Le Bon’s ideals still carry a heavy importance and influence in this modern era, even though it is not widely acknowledged. Through technological marvels, social media has influenced entire revolutions and cultures’ mindsets. In the perplexing evil eye of materialistic influences, the class gap grows ever larger and a gawking bourgeoisie directs the crowd. Deep at the roots of exploitative manner, corporations deny a healthy living for their employees and beckon for an automated audience. In this nation we are torn amongst issues that we deem of utmost importance, such as gun, abortion, and drug rights. I would have to concur with most of the populace in that these issues are important!
However, shouldn’t we focus on having a strong comfortable internet space? Or some sort of distribution of wealth from the 1%? More importantly, shouldn’t our people have an enjoyable standard of living? My only hope is that the revolutionary political views from within the progressive left come to fruition in the coming election. Furthermore, I deeply believe that in America will be changed with peaceful revolution. It happened in the 1960’s and will happen again. Unfortunately, I think if a peaceful revolution were to happen. Eventually a violent one would come to be, depending on the leader. As most peaceful revolutions are quelled and appeased in an effort to maintain the peace.
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