An Analysis of Nationalism and Imperialism in Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto
Karl Marx is a political theorist, who is well known for his liberal ideas in Communist Manifesto. He has significantly influenced political dynamics throughout the world. In the 19th century, the political world was characterized by nationalism.
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It involves a sense of love and loyalty towards one’s country. At the same time, the world experienced imperialism. The latter was a diplomatic endeavor that saw countries expanding their boundaries and influence into other countries (Kinzer 57).
Karl Marx had anticipated the rise of nationalism and imperialism by opining that a collective experience by a nation will give rise to a distinct ethnicity that will influence other nations. He reflected on the fact that a nation will achieve nationalism by embracing bourgeoise values.
In this case, bourgeoisie will be the image mirrored to the world. It will result into what Felipe (91) termed as civilization. Every nation, including the barbaric ones, will embrace an efficient instrument of production and communication.
Karl Marx described the future of nations through political centralization. It is a phenomenon expressed through an operational government characterized by a code of law, a single custom tariff, and a uniform class pursuing the same interests. Liberal nationalism was the key pillar in realizing the centralized population.
According to Felipe (104), liberal nationalism was a belief in non-xenophobia. It enhanced liberal freedom in the nations. The emergence of liberalism was inevitable due to what Tamir (59) termed as classical liberalism.
The term ‘classical liberalism’ was coined by Tamir to explain the ‘inevitability’ of imperialism. Classical liberalism was an ideology in the political arena that advocated for civil liberty and political freedom. Classical liberalism movement was realized in the 19th century.
It distinguished itself from earlier liberalism that did not cater for expanding industrial revolution and urbanization. To achieve this dream, a different government with a specific society and a policy to address the emerging revolutions was enacted, hence classical liberalism.
The movement was driven by four core principles derived from perceptions of human nature. Egoistic is one of the aspects of human nature that formed the core of this movement. According to the principle, humans are self-centered and only care about themselves. To this end, government was created to shield humans from one another.
Felipe (187) opines that people experience pain and pleasure, which motivates them. As such, calculation was another core principle of the movement. It ensured that pain is countered, while pleasure is increased. The case is evident during hunger. Calculations are done by the individual to alleviate hunger as a pain.
Atomism was another core principle of classical liberalism. In this case, people view themselves as a society and not as a family. The latter was the trend during the earlier liberalism movement. The last principle centered on ‘essentiality’ of the inert. Classical liberalism, unlike the previous liberalism, maintained that humans are free to pursue their own interests. Their actions should not be restricted by the society (Felipe 91).
Classical liberalism contributed to the formation of a separate movement referred to as western imperialism. The latter gave rise to different scenarios like racism, which was evident in western liberalism.
Effects of Classical Liberalism on Western Imperialism
Western liberalism was a political philosophy evident especially in the Anglo-American culture. The philosophy ensured that government activities were not interfering with the lives of the people. In other words, this political-philosophical movement was anti-authoritarian. It emphasized on the importance of the family and its autonomy from state control, which was considered unaccommodating.
In many western nations, the classical movement was driven by the quest to transform the economy and the political philosophy. However, the movement has shifted ground to include ideologies that saw people identify themselves with groups that define.
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A case in point is identification through color and culture. The movement has transformed to encompass free market ideologies and free trade unions. The latter are defined under a specific culture and what Anderson (129) refers to as bourgeoisie.
In Marxist literature, bourgeois was a scenario characterized by the accumulation of wealth through means of efficient production. Capitalism was preserved to counter the effects of poor production in the society. The development initiated what Kinzer (81) refers to as economic supremacy. In economic supremacy, the society ensured that it outdid the surrounding nations, leading to what Kinzer (89) referred to as imperialism.
Western Imperialism and Racism
When imperialism emerged, the world’s most powerful nations expanded their boundaries and dominated others. Many native populations were forgotten and, at times, even stereotyped. The intention was to meet the needs and aspirations of the colonial powers. In the process, clash of cultures was evident.
According to Ozkirimli (173), colonialism emerged, where countries like those in Europe took over the affairs of others in Asia and Africa. The British and other colonialists gave the impression that they were conquerors. It eroded mutual respect and gave rise to what Kinzer (91) refers to as racism.
According to Kinzer (130), the activities of the colonialists could not be linked to ‘dominion’. In his book America’s Century of Regime of Change, the author argues that the move was militaristic and aimed to dominate others. However, the western liberalists saw it differently. Their intention was racist in nature, since they were determined to bring civilization to the backward communities. However, they pushed the cultures to the limit.
According to Gray (157), during the expansion, the western imperialists were motivated by racist ideas, which were mainly spearheaded by the Europeans. They argued that whites were superior to non-whites. They argued from a Darwinism perspective, contending that the European nations were legitimately engaged in struggle for survival. Christianity was considered the only true religion, and quite a number of racist policies existed.
Racism was initiated by advanced European technologies that led to military imbalances. Advanced technology gave Europeans an upper hand in the struggle, helping them impose their wills on other cultures. The use of technology enhanced the living standards of Europeans.
The reason for this is what Marxist literature referred to as bourgeoisie, which lead to a ‘mirrored’ civilization. Increased production and improved modes of communication, which were brought about by technology, made Europeans ‘superior’ to other nations (Gray 61).
Karl Marx’s communist manifesto defines the origins of the political movements and ideologies that promote equality to all. However, Marxist ideas are faced by resistance from some quarters due to the emergence of other ideologies incompatible with change. It is evident that change is inevitable in the society. The need for change is one of the reasons why many people resisted racism and colonialism.
Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, New York: Verso, 2012. Print.
Felipe, Fernandez. The World: A History- Volume C: From 1700 to the Present, New York: Pantheon, 1998. Print.
Gray, John. Liberalism, Minneapolis: Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2011. Print.
Kinzer, Stephen. Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, London: Sage, 2008. Print.
Ozkirimli, Umut. Theories of Nationalism: A Critical Introduction, New York: Palgrave, 2010. Print.
Tamir, Yael. Liberal Nationalism, New York: Princeton University Press, 2008. Print.