Political representation in the modern world has become a matter of concern for many in society. This has been mainly as a result of the development of the democratic ideal which has created a situation where individuals in society seek to have an influence over the future of their nations. While this has been the case, there have developed diverse perspectives concerning the manner through which this representation can be achieved and these include capitalist, Marxist, and social democratic ideals. The rise of the middle class, especially during the industrial revolution and after has led to a situation where this class has come to demand representation equal to their direct participation and contribution to the economy. The middle class came about as a result of greater access to education through the founding of schools that they could afford as well as mandatory education for children between ages 5 and 10. This paper seeks to show the manner through which the different perspectives above view the best way that the middle class can be able to achieve political representation in society.
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The Marxist perspective is one that promotes the belief that throughout history, there has always been social conflict between the rival classes in society. It recognizes that there are two main classes in society and these are the bourgeoisie and the proletariat with the former controlling the means of production while the latter provide the labor needed to ensure that production is carried out (Marx and Engels 2004, p.14). When it comes to political representation, the bourgeoisie are also the ones who form the political elite to ensure that their economic interests are protected against any form of infringement by the proletariat. This is done through passing of laws which are favorable to the bourgeoisie at the expense of the proletariat who are not only kept away from the political affairs of society, but are forced to support the actions of the bourgeoisie. Marx and Engels advocate for the idea that the only way through which the proletariat will be able to gain power within society would be through overthrowing the bourgeoisie while at the same time creating a new social order where all members of society will come to be viewed equally (Eccleshall 2003, p.40). Social conflict is at the center of the Marxist perspective and the imminent rise of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie is believed to be the only way through which the former will be able to gain political power in society that is equivalent to their economic contributions. Despite Marxism gaining a lot of currency and being one of the dominant ideologies over the next century, its ideas have come to be challenged by the rise of social democracy.
The social democratic ideology states that the social change that will allow the middle class to gain the political power in proportion to its economic contributions should be gradual. Those who support this ideology state that the number of individuals who have joined the middle class has grown significantly to such an extent that there is no need for radical social change as proposed by Marxism (Halsall 1997). This ideology came about in the early twentieth century where the economic conditions in society were greatly improved and the middle class was in a continuous state of growth. It even suggests that the number of individuals who own the means of production has increased in such a significant way that radical change would essentially bring about the destruction of society. The increase in the number of the middle class shows the potential of members of the lower classes to rise in society within the existing social order and this makes a need for a rise against the bourgeoisie inconsequential. The gradual social change advocated for by the social democrats can be considered to be an acceptance of capitalism as well as the need to ensure that any change that took place in society happened through a political process. One would suggest that the belief in gradual change is a concession to the benefits of capitalism and how the latter can help improve the lives of all people in society. Furthermore, social democracy shows that the sociopolitical situation has not turned out as badly as was believed would happen by the Karl Marx and his communist successors. A catastrophic change of the social system would be detrimental to the achievement of social equality because there would be no way of predicting the impact of such a change on society.
Anarchism is an ideology that not only encourages the private ownership of the means of production, but also the removal of government from the lives of individuals in society. This ideology has essentially guided the various economic revolutions that have taken place in the modern world, specifically the agrarian and later the industrial revolution (Crafts 1978). It is essential to note that anarchism is very radical in its approach towards the achievement of social change as well as freedom and it stipulates that there should be no government. Furthermore, anarchism believes in the development of revolutions as a result of uprisings from peasant population, especially from countries that have been underdeveloped. This is in contrast with capitalism which promotes the competition between the various parties in trade and this, it is believed, ensures that only the best are able to survive in the market. Capitalist believe that their ideology is a means through which the global economy has become more competitive and this ensures that there is sustenance of the current order. Despite its similarity to anarchism, especially when it comes to the rise of peasants against the elite and the overthrow of governments, Marxism promotes the development of state power. Anarchism on the other hand promotes the idea that states should cease to exist and individuals should have more independence of action.
The above discussion has shown the diverse ways through which the middle class can be able to achieve political representation in society. Three economic ideologies, specifically Marxism, social democracy, and free market capitalism, have been discussed in relation to the achievement of political representation by the middle class. It has been found that Marxism recognizes two main classes in society and these are the bourgeoisie and the proletariat with the former controlling the means of production and therefore having the ability to influence the political developments in their societies. Furthermore, the social democratic ideology states that gradual social change will eventually allow the middle class to gain political power in proportion to its economic contributions and is against radical change as advocated for by communists. Finally, anarchism has been found to be an ideology that not only encourages the private ownership of the means of production, but also the removal of government from the lives of individuals in society.
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