Thoughts on Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ “The Ruling Class and the Ruling Ideas”

I can't tell if this reading was more conveniently timely or just timeless. Here are my correlations with current societal happenings: In talking about how different ideas dominate a time based on who is in power Marx and Engles say, “If now in considering the course of history we detach the ideas of the ruling class from the ruling class itself and attribute to them an independent existence…” (page 10, Keyworks). While this is strictly politically speaking, it reminds me of the discourse around celebrities, specifically musicians, and separating supporting their music from acknowledging their social and political beliefs. Conversation around this has become increasingly popular as racial climate thickens and "canceling" culture on social media rises. Canceling culture is the immediate removal of support and interest in a person from their hitherto state of celebrity based on a problematic statement or action made; and there are too many examples in 2018, from R Kelly’s (long-standing, but recently revisited) pedophilia to Doja Cat’s use of a homophobic slur. As the climate of our society changes, adhering to ideas of political correctness becomes more prevalent than ever in communicating and speaking publicly. And much to our dismay, some of our beloved celebrities aren't the forward-thinking, socially conscious and respect people we hoped they would be. Millennials (and Gen X) have done an impressive job of bringing awareness to and acting on asserting the rights of marginalized groups. We’ve not only made it our duty to defend the victims of racism, sexism and misogyny, ableism, homophobia, and etc., but have also banded together in correcting and educating those who do the act aka basic morals which hadn't seemed to be so common. Further, surprisingly and almost as aggressively, we are beginning to revive our hippy grandparents' socialist –or more simply anti-capitalist– thought. The paragraph of the aforementioned quote concludes that we can assume “during the time the aristocracy was dominant, the concepts honour, loyalty, etc., were dominant, during the dominance of the bourgeoisie the concepts freedom, equality, etc.” (page 10, Keyworks). It is not hard to pinpoint what political change has affected this rushing wave of old, but newly dominant concepts. Reading this passage specifically, I felt I was being given the instructions to begin organizing the revolution and although this text is extremely dense, it made the step-by-step actions required seem fairly simple. This speaks directly to how easily politics work in America; making significant change in government seems especially tedious with all of the written laws and three houses of government, when in reality change in high structures can happen in the metaphorical blink of an eye (i.e. 2016 election). Marx and Engles say “The class making a revolution comes forward from the very start, if only because it is opposed to a class, not as a class but as the representative of the whole of society, as the whole mass of society confronting the one ruling class. It can do this because initially its interest really is as yet mostly connected with the common interest of all other non-ruling classes…” (page 10, Keyworks). Because the Trump administration harms so many different demographics and those of intersecting identities, it is easy of "all other non-ruling classes" (i.e. those of us who do not identify as rich white male) to unite in opposition of "the one ruling class". Our unity or "general interest" is based on so many transgressions (against, women, against immigrants, against the poor, against people of color, against the lgtbqia+ community) that it can only sensibly be labeled as human rights --the dominant concept of political time. Thinking back (to how I struggled to read many of these very dense excerpts), it is no coincidence that this particular page of this excerpt stuck with me and was the most easily digestible. It never fails to amaze me how history truly repeats itself, which I think is the grand statement being made here by Marx and Engles; it doesn't matter who or what social group is ruling when the ideas remain.

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