John Locke, 1690
In the Second Treatise of Government, John Locke discusses men's move from a state of nature characterized by perfect freedom and governed by reason to a civil government in which the authority is vested in a legislative and executive power. The major ideas developed throughout the text include popular sovereignty and the consent of the governed, the protection and limitations of property, the problems inherent in an absolute monarchy, and the ability of a people to dissolve their government if it does not adhere to the bond of trust established between the governed and governor.
The Treatise begins with a discussion of the state of nature. In this state, men are born equal to one another and have perfect liberty to maintain and order their lives and property. They are governed by reason and seek the preservation of mankind. When a man transgresses the laws of nature and uses force against another, the entire society has the right to punish him in order to preserve order and make an example of him to deter future crimes. The state of nature is entirely free but men find that other men may interfere with their ability to protect their property.
A state of war exists when one man uses force against another. It can only be lifted when the aggressor is killed or reparations are made. In terms of slavery, Locke states that it is only just for a man to be enslaved when he forfeits his life due to his usage of force against his conqueror. It is not just for any man to exercise absolute or arbitrary power over another. Absolute monarchs who do so are guilty of creating a state of war between themselves and their subjects.
The desire to protect one's property is paramount in establishing a civil government. Property includes a man's life, liberty, and possessions. In a state of nature, man's property (in terms of land) is directly correlated to the labor he puts into it. Any land he cultivates can be considered his property, as well as any fruits of the earth that he picks. As populations grow and societies establish currencies, a government is needed to regulate property.
Civil government is established when the people consent to be governed. They cannot be forced into allegiance or fealty to a government. The people give up their rights to perfect freedom, judgment, and punishment, and invest these powers in a legislative and executive power. Locke does not believe democracy is the only type of valid government, but he does firmly state that absolute monarchies are completely at odds with civil society because the ruler has no limitations on his power. The civil government is based upon the bond of trust between the people and their authority. The people gave up their freedom, and in turn, they expect the authority to act with the public good always in mind. Any breach of this bond of trust can legitimate the people's dissolution of the government.
The civil society has a legislative and executive power. The legislative power is the supreme law of the land; its standing laws must be known and followed. The executive power enforces the laws of the legislature and exercises the power of prerogative, which is the ability to use discretion to enforce the public good even if the laws must be circumvented or ignored. If the legislative or executive powers act arbitrarily, erratically, or simply not at all, they are violating the bond of trust with the people and forsaking their claim to obedience and submission.
If, after a prolonged series of oppressive maneuvers and unheard appeals, the people still have no respite from the tyrannical actions of their government, they have the right to dissolve said government. They can restore it with new leadership, change it, or create an entirely new system of government. A government only exists when it has the consent of the people, and thus, can be dissolved when it has failed them.
On August 26, 1789, the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen" were passed by the National Assembly. This presented to the world a summary of the ideals and principles of the Revolution, and justified the destruction of a government based upon absolutism and privilege, and the establishment of a new regime based upon the inalienable rights of individuals, liberty, and political equality. The Declaration became the preamble to the Constitution of 1791. It has been referred to in almost every single revolutionary movement since 1789, and has been translated into nearly all major languages. It is the basis of the constitutional foundations of many countries, including France's Fifth Republic.
Many ideas for the Declaration were from the Enlightenment, with the most important influence being John Locke's Second Treatise of Government (first published in England in 1690 at the time of the 'Glorious Revolution').
By 1791, the Declaration had been transformed from a legislative document into a kind of political manifesto. No one assisted this process more than Tom Paine, whose Rights of Man became one of the best-selling books in English history, and the bible of working-class radicals. Paine reproduced the document, word for word, treating it as a sacred text that ushered in a new epoch of world history.
The King was never in favour of the Declaration and he refused to endorse it because he thought its clauses were too ambiguous. He only sanctioned it under popular pressure on October fifth and sixth, 1791. Since then, it has been adopted by all kinds of political groups, and has been used both to justify revolution and also to supress it.
Responding to continued military crisis during the French Revolutionary wars, the National Convention sought to call up more troops to defend the new republic. Appeals for volunteers had gone out in 1791 and 1792, and limited conscription had been applied since then, but more recruits were needed again by the summer of 1793. After debate, the Representatives in the Convention declared a levée en masse in the following terms: 'Young men will go to battle; married men will forge arms and transport supplies; women will make tents, uniforms, and serve in the hospitals; children will pick rags; old men will have themselves carried to public squares, to inspire the courage of the warriors, and to preach the hatred of kings and the unity of the Republic.'
This was more than conscription; it mobilized an entire nation. The practical effect was to send all able-bodied unmarried men aged 18 to 25 to the front, an infusion of some 300, 000 new recruits who raised the official strength of the army to 1, 000, 000 men. However, the impact of the levée en masse went beyond this, for it announced a new era of warfare in which peoples, not simply rulers, fought.
Smith's seminal work, The Wealth of Nations, aims to create a new understanding of economics. Smith writes largely against the mercantile system that existed at the time of writing, but, along the way, gives a complicated but brilliant account of an economic system based in human nature and deeply rooted social dynamics. The text is characterized by fact-heavy digressions, tables, and appendices that blend hard research with broad generalities, demonstrating his commitment to give evidence for what seem like timeless observations about the nature of economics.
Books I and II focus on developing the idea of the division of labor, and describing how this division adds to the opulence of a given society by creating enormous surpluses, which can be exchanged among members. The division of labor also fuels technological innovation, by giving intense focus to certain tasks, and allowing workers to brainstorm ways to make these tasks more efficient. This, again, adds to efficiency and grows surpluses. Surpluses, Smith writes, may be either traded or re-invested. In the latter case, technologies are likely to improve, leading to even greater efficiencies.
Book III considers Great Britain in the context of the the social evolution of society in general, which begins, according to Smith, with hunting and gathering societies and progresses through agricultural stages to arrive at a state of international commerce. According to Smith, the fall of Rome and the rise of feudalism retarded this progression by creating a system of decreased efficiency.
Book IV goes on to criticize the "mercantile commerce" that characterized much of Smith's Europe. Smith's first major criticism of mercantilism is that it conflates value and wealth with precious metals. According to Smith, the real measure of the wealth of a nation is the stream of goods and services that the nation creates. In making this point, Smith invents the idea of gross domestic product, which has become central to modern economics. The wealth of a nation is increased not by hoarding metals, but by increasing the productive capacity by expanding the market—by increasing trade.
An important theme that persists throughout the work is the idea that the economic system is automatic, and, when left with substantial freedom, able to regulate itself. This is often referred to as the "invisible hand." The ability to self-regulate and to ensure maximum efficiency, however, is threatened by monopolies, tax preferences, lobbying groups, and other "privileges" extended to certain members of the economy at the expense of others.
Finally, in the last book of The Wealth of Nations, Smith describes what he considers to be the appropriate roles of government, namely defense, justice, the creation and maintenance of public works that contribute to commerce, education, the maintenance of the "dignity of the sovereign,"—activities that are to be financed by fair and clear taxation.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
The Communist Manifesto reflects an attempt to explain the goals of Communism, as well as the theory underlying this movement. It argues that class struggles, or the exploitation of one class by another, are the motivating force behind all historical developments. Class relationships are defined by an era's means of production. However, eventually these relationships cease to be compatible with the developing forces of production. At this point, a revolution occurs and a new class emerges as the ruling one. This process represents the "march of history" as driven by larger economic forces.
Modern Industrial society in specific is characterized by class conflict between the bourgeoisie and proletariat. However, the productive forces of capitalism are quickly ceasing to be compatible with this exploitative relationship. Thus, the proletariat will lead a revolution. However, this revolution will be of a different character than all previous ones: previous revolutions simply reallocated property in favor of the new ruling class. However, by the nature of their class, the members of the proletariat have no way of appropriating property. Therefore, when they obtain control they will have to destroy all ownership of private property, and classes themselves will disappear.
The Manifesto argues that this development is inevitable, and that capitalism is inherently unstable. The Communists intend to promote this revolution, and will promote the parties and associations that are moving history towards its natural conclusion. They argue that the elimination of social classes cannot come about through reforms or changes in government. Rather, a revolution will be required.
The Communist Manifesto has four sections. In the first section, it discusses the Communists' theory of history and the relationship between proletarians and bourgeoisie. The second section explains the relationship between the Communists and the proletarians. The third section addresses the flaws in other, previous socialist literature. The final section discusses the relationship between the Communists and other parties.
In 1839, in light of the growing level of opium addiction in China under the Qing Dynasty, Emperor Daoguang sent Commissioner Lin Zexu to Guangzhou (also called Canton), Guangdong Province, and ordered him to stop the smuggling and sale of opium in China by Western, especially British, merchants. While negotiating with Charles Elliot, the British superintendent of trade, for his cooperation, Lin wrote a letter in the traditional "memorial" form to the ruler of Britain expressing China's desire for peaceful resolution of the opium trade. He used what limited-even mistaken-knowledge he had newly acquired about his adversary in the hope of evoking the latter's sympathy and understanding. Drawing on Confucian precepts as well as historical events, he also reasoned forcefully on moral ground, trying to persuade the English monarch that he naturally would not wish to ask of others what he himself did not want. The letter was, in effect, an ultimatum made by Commissioner Lin on behalf of the Qing emperor to the English monarch, delivering the unmistakable message that he and the Qing government were determined to ban the selling and smoking of opium once and for all and at any cost.
After drafting and revising the letter, Commissioner Lin asked his assistant and English missionaries and merchants to translate it into English and present it to the British king-who was actually Queen Victoria, whose reign had begun in 1837. Lin also circulated the letter as a public announcement to the Western merchants in Guangzhou. In the end, the letter was not delivered to the queen as he had intended, nor was his hope for a peaceful solution to the opium problem realized. Instead, the so-called First Opium War broke out in 1840, which ended in the Qing Dynasty's defeat and Lin's dismissal.