.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}


As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Industrial Manchester

Starting point – Stathis Kouvelakis, Philosophy and Revolution from Kant to Marx, Verso 2003. This gives a dynamic relationship between revolutionary/ Napoleonic France and a fragmented Germany. In broad outline, that filtered through German philosophical theory, the potential of revolutionary France would be fulfilled in a new, enlightened, Germany. Marx developed his practical philosophy following the failure of this project.

I found in this an echo of the relationship between England and Scotland one hundred years earlier. That the Scots post-1689 attempted to catch-up with and exceed their more advanced neighbour. The Scottish Enlightenment was an intellectual/ philosophical aspect of this. Economic Improvement was a closely related economic aspect of the Scottish Enlightenment.

What the Germans, esp. Hegel, hoped for was a 'glorious' -as in peaceful- revolution which would sweep away the archaic elements of German society from the top down, without unleashing a populist/ mass movement. For Hegel in the 1820s this seemed like a possibility, but by the 1840s Marx realised that the German bourgeoisie were not able/ prepared to do so – so invoked the proletariat as the necessary force.

Into this French/ German dynamic and running in parallel with the French Revolution, Britain was undergoing an Industrial Revolution. But this was a practical revolution, one which lacked a philosophical dimension. The Industrial Revolution was only indirectly, if at all, the product of the Enlightenment. The nearest it had to philosophical roots was the work of Scottish Enlightenment thinkers like James Steuart and Adam Smith on 'political economy'.

But Steuart and Smith wrote (1767 and 1776 respectively) before the Industrial Revolution achieved critical mass – in Manchester after 1785 when steam power was effectively applied to cotton manufacturing.