Peter the Great and Progress

In an attempt to create a more progressive and modern Russia, Peter the Great consolidated his own power by successfully subjugating the aristocracy and Russian Orthodox Church.  A group of perpetual troublemakers, the gentry were given official duties and rank according to the Table of Ranks.  Futhermore the rank of the noble was directly related to that individuals relationship with the Emperor, completely discounting the traditional hereditary mestnichestvo.  By establishing a meritocracy the best and brightest would in theory have the highest ranks in the government.  Peter the Great even established harsh punishments for any transgressors beyond their prescribed social boundaries.  Anyone caught behaving above their grade was publicly humiliated, beaten and then stripped of grade and title.  Although the system does in many ways ignore the hereditary power of the gentry, for the most part only elites had the time or resources to serve in the higher grades.  The educational prerequisites and necessity of travel excluded most of the serf peasantry.  Most notably this measure forced the gentry into a service position and increased the power of the state, with a minimal increase of social movement.

In a similar attempt to consolidate state power, Peter the Great inhibited the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church and instead established the Holy Synod.  Following this drastic reconstruction, the Emperor also outlined the guidelines for the clergy under this new church government.  By gaining state control over the highly influential church, Peter I attempted to open Russia to progress and the presence of Western innovations.  The twenty-seventh and twenty-ninth article in particular enumerate the progressive reforms of the Emperor.  Similar to the Table of Ranks, education is now necessary for clergy and subsequently the recording of deaths, marriages, and baptisms.  By organizing the bureacracy of the church, and involving the state, Peter the Great eliminated any despotic or unsuitable priests.  The pressure and responsibility of the parish priest increased, while the power of the bishops decreased.

A major problem that hindered the effectiveness of Peter the Great’s reforms were the swiftness of the new statutes and the lack of preparation preceding these changes.  These western innovations that adapted over centuries were instituted immediately in Russia.  Furthermore, using principles that worked in western countries did not fit for some Russian institutions.  The move for progress in many cases outstripped Russian capabilities.


What was Peter the Great Trying to Do?

Peter the Great is often times credited for transforming Russia and his reign is viewed as a great watershed moment in Russian history. As you read the two articles and two primary sources for Friday, think about how Peter’s reforms could lead to progress for Russia. Comment in 200-400 words, with specific examples, on how Peter’sTable of Ranks and Spiritual Regulation promoted progress. You may also comment on any limitations you see in the reforms’ abilities to reach the intended goals.

Hungry, Hungry Hippos

[Marx, St. Simon, and Smith enjoy a casual evening gamenight together: The three are gathered in a small, softly lit apartment. Plainly furnished and with a worn in feel it could be any of the three. They are conversing easily around a small board game table and Smith reaches down into a bag at his feet]

Smith: [while rummaging around] Well…since it is my week to provide entertainment, I have brought choices! Three classic games for us to choose from.

*the other two nod in agreement*

Smith: First, Twister! Something for us to get our blood moving. Second, monopoly! Such a classic game of chance. And third, my favorite by far, hungry hungry hippos! Need I even explain my excitement for the latter.

*Marx and St. Simon eye each other cautiously*

Marx: Smith, while I do applaud your choice of twister, would you care to explain your thought process when choosing the other two games?

St. Simon: Yes, particularly the game of hippos…this is one I have not heard of before.

Smith: [Genuinely surprised] Never heard of hungry hungry hippos? Ah well, I will justify my choices for the two of you. I am surprised you would question my choice in monopoly, as I said before, it is such a perfect equilibrium of chance, and personal choice in economics!

Marx: Please elaborate.

Smith: Well you see, in a game of monopoly, it is not only where your piece lands, but the choices you make with the options you are given! In a game of monopoly, it is every man for himself competing fiercely to gain the most capital and property.

Marx: I do not see how this could be a positive incentive…

Smith: In the ideal economic system, it should be the goal of the individual to be as successful as he can possibly be. Laissez-faire! Monopoly is the ultimate competition in which the winners win big, and the losers always have hope that they can improve their earnings!

St. Simon: But surely this is not a game of entertainment, any group playing would obviously not find any enjoyment in it.

Smith: And why is that?

St. Simon: Look at this individuals, good sir, how can the group benefit if each individual is not protected? This game looks out only for the ruthless and the lucky, perhaps the corrupt as well. Where is the gain for those hard workers who receive nothing?

Smith: Ah, but their time will come. If the individual is persistent the he is bound to find some success!

Marx: I see that this game does not protect its participants at all…

Smith: But that is the joy, the competition, the free market! I see that the two of you are very reluctant to delve into monopoly with my, so perhaps another time. Ah well, hungry hungry hippos then! Each player is assigned a hippo and the objective is simple, obtain as many little balls of food as possible before the other players!

Marx: The resources are not divided up equally for all?

Smith: Oh Karl, this game is every man for himself! A cut throat race to get the most food and outlast your opponents, survival of the fittest!

Marx: But what if the other hippos were to join together, and rebel against the one who obtains the most resources?

St. Simon: We obviously do not understand the motive of this game Karl, it is simply in which the winners keep winning and leave nothing for the rest of us…

Marx: Ah, quite the form of entertainment, while one hippo gluts himself and the rest starve…

Smith: Gentlemen please! This is all in the name of good fun, good company, and every many for himself!

St. Simon: Might I suggest we settle for Twister?

[Scene fades out]

Plato and More: A Discussion on Democracy

(Plato appears in Sir Thomas More’s chamber in Henry VIII’s castle)

More: So we meet again, Plato.

Plato: Greetings, Sir More.

M: So what shall the topic be for today’s cross-time continuum conversation?

P: I was thinking about discussing the topic of democracy today.

M: Why not. I’ll let you begin.

P: Let us first define the term democracy. Democracy is a state where freedom reigns supreme as the defining characteristic; the people may live life as they please, may take up any profession they please, and may speak without fear of unlawful censorship or persecution. They also are entitled to private property, where…

M: Private property? Ah, how amusing!

P: Is that so? I’m interested in your thoughts, More.

M: Well, I believe that the concept of private property is the source of class inequalities, thus creating injustice in society. It causes not only a sense of materialism but also the division of society into two classes: the rich and the poor. The rich develop a culture of buying and selling goods, or private property, that the poor laborers produce. Thus, the poor work for the benefit of the rich, causing inequality.

P: That is true. Seeing as how this system does not work, what shall you propose instead?

M: Private property should belong to the central government and be shared by all. This creates a society where all classes, while retaining individuality, combine their talents to produce property for the good of the entire State.

P: A truly just society…that is what you have just described. Where each man fulfills his/her role for the good of the State.

M: A truly just society is what democracy is NOT. In democracy, the poor work for the benefit of the few rich instead of the State as a whole. Justice can only be achieved by eliminating the freedom that paradoxically leads to inequality. Now tell me, Plato, what are your ideas of democracy?

P: I think that democracy, as defined by us earlier, is made unworthy of being called perfect by any means, as you have described it. However, I believe that the true downfall of democracy is the lack of proper leadership that exists because of it. If freedom is to thrive as the dominant quality of a democratic government, then there will be little chance of the people being willing to give in to a leader unless he/she stands for their direct interests. While a leader should definitely listen to his people, is he/ really acting in their interests by doing whatever they want him to do? I believe that because of this, an effective leader is unable of being chosen directly from the people; therefore, democracy at its core is unable of achieving true leadership.

M: Perhaps a form of indirect representation is needed? Where the people are represented by properly educated public officials, who nominate and elect the leaders based on the interests of the people? Anyways, it seems that according to both of us, pure democracy is unfit to be the government of a truly ideal State, even if it be due to different reasons.

P: At least at its core. There are many aspects of democracy that can be adapted to form an ideal government style. I see it as a step towards achieving a perfect society. Isn’t that something you’ve speculated upon, More, seeing as you invented the word “utopia”?

M: Oh come, now. Utopia, in its Greek context, means “a good place”; you of all people should know that. Furthermore, I wrote Utopia as a satire; merely a criticism against the governments of the time. Though many may argue otherwise, saying that it was intended as a “blueprint” for a perfect State or whatnot, I insist that criticism was my original intent. I believe a perfect society is impossible.

P: Even if a perfect society is possible, we can at least both agree that it does not take the form of pure democracy.

M: Indeed.

P: Well it has been enjoyable having a conversation with you, Sir More, but I must be getting back to my time. Until next time, my friend.

M: Farewell.

(Plato disappears from the room)

Discussion on Democracy

The Pessimist and the Optimist

(Plato has invited Sir Thomas More in his abode for an intellectual discussion)

Sir Thomas More(T)

T: Hello, and thank you for having me this evening.

P: Greetings to you too. The pleasure is all mine as I do enjoy having these discussions that contribute to our understanding of the world.

T: Even so, I mean, a person of your stature couldn’t possibly have the leisure to entertain a fellow like me.

P: Of my stature? Good man, in our form of study, we are all equals.

T: Speaking of equality: there were some aspects in your Republic that I thought I wanted to  clarify or rather, verify my understanding of it.

P: Ask away, my friend.

T: I am referring to the antidemocratic leadership that you had imposed in your ‘perfect State’. Would you not agree that people with their free minds will never stand for such subjugation? Would it not be better to work in co-operation rather than relying on one person’s ability to judge and govern? Born under the same sun, does everyone not have the right to have a say in matters which govern them? Furthermore, having a sole figure would attract rebellions, violate freedom hence, defy justice. Clearly, a violation of justice would mean a violation of people’s happiness that your ‘perfect state is supposed to provide. Equality to the extent that not even the leaders are exempt from any laws will provide a stage of independence. Whereas your ideas seem to suggest, if you would permit me inferring, a form of dictatorship.

P: Good man, I believe your words hold weight. However, they are optimistic and naive. People, from birth are driven by their selfish desires. Greed, lust, pride- time and time again civilizations have been crushed due to human nature. And you ask me to put faith in it?! You say, I flout justice? The justice you speak of is individualistic, a justice that accounts for societal happiness has to be achieved. I prefer lack of freedom by imposing rulers who are fit to rule, rather than the lack of any form of peace itself. An instance where the ignorant, unknowing people have elected a leader who is not capable must be avoided. If that is your definition of dictatorship, I confess guilty.

Now, I must question your democracy: assuming democracy is achieved, how do you attempt to prevent your leaders from falling into sins?

T: I believe that human nature is prone to lean towards malice. Therefore, I impose religion and practices of good faith from a very young in order to deter them from such malpractice. Furthermore, my utopia is segregated from the rest of society and cannot be influenced by it.

How do you suggest to find this ultimate leader who will have the skills to rule without falling for the sins himself?

P: I will select children out of society, teach them the subjects which will enhance their skills as leaders and finally choose the one who show the best results in their adult lives.


P: I believe, we have reached a stalemate. Since we are both prejudiced in some ways: you in your resentment of the Catholic church and the tyrannical English monarchy,

T: And you, in your lack in faith of the society that murdered your teacher, Socrates; we cannot reach a point of agreement.

P: Therefore, we must leave our works for the next generation of thinkers to comprehend its meanings and unveil right from wrong.

T: Fair enough. I hope our conversation has changed your pessimistic views on democracy to some extent.

P: Oh, if only…

Dialogue between Plato and More

Plato and More meet to discuss the idea of democracy as a form of government.


Plato: A democracy being a proper form of government – you cannot be serious Thomas.


More: Yes I am quite serious. It will allow for the country to prosper and for the citizens to elect officials and create a society full of happiness.


P: Democracy is a joke and does not work. Look at the state and Greece and Athens right now. Does it really look like democracy is working?


M: The democracy that Greece has is not a true democracy and is severely corrupted. A true democracy would never be run the way Greece is.


P: Thomas even if you create a democracy it will fail because over time it will become corrupted.


M: You really need to have more faith in the members of society. You make them seem so selfish and greedy. If a proper society is created individuals will want what is best for the overall community and not just what is best for them.


P: You are way too idealistic. Society needs rulers who have been trained their entire life. These individuals will be taken at a young age and learn what it takes to rule and how to rule a society. These individuals will be called philosopher kings and they surely will not have their minds corrupted by this idea of democracy.


M: That is the most absurd thing I have ever heard Plato you make people seem like they are sheep and need a shepherd to lead them. Your perception of man disgusts me. You must have more faith in people. People will work together so that they can have an overall better way of life. Democracy is a just form of government because not only is it “a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system”( but it is the way to forming a utopia.


P: You must have lost your mind. This is truly the most bizarre thing I have heard. I don’t understand why you have such a difficult time understanding that democracy will never work. Democracy leads to chaos because it creates class separation in which the classes will eventually clash and the poor will revolt against the individuals in power. In addition, democracy makes society veer further and further away from a utopia.


M: If you were truly educated as you brag that you are, Plato, than you would know from reading my book Utopia that a society is most happy when the government is not involved and citizens feel that they aren’t being ruled. Your idea of the philosopher king is creating an elitist society where only the strongest and smartest can rule. These individuals cannot relate to the common man and will not know how to rule common people because these “philosopher kings” have an unrealistic perception of society and expect more from people than they really can do.


P: Thomas you have made a very good point. I want to sleep on this new concept that you have made me think about. Want to meet tomorrow for lunch to discuss further?


M: Most certainly.

Discussion on Capitalism

Marx: We are gathered here today to discuss our current economic, political, and social situation.

Smith: Politics? Social situation? I’m only here to talk about economics….

Marx: Well Smith when you improve the lives of citizens, and arrange politics so that it will benefit the people, economics will also improve.

Smith: Marx I’d have to disagree. You must first improve the economy in order to improve the lives of citizens.

Marx: But Smith the history of all societies has always been a struggle between classes: the struggle between the oppressed and the oppressor! It’s more complicated than simply economics.

Simon: Do you not see the interconnection between the oppressed and the oppressor, and how they are both to blame?

Marx: No! I blame the bourgeois for all the struggles of the proletariat!

Simon: But do you not see that it is the competition which is at fault? Competition makes everyone each other’s enemies.

Marx: Are you defending the bourgeois?

Simon: It’s not that I am defending them, but I am saying that all are hurt by the division of labor. You seem to believe that all bourgeois are successful. It is very easy for one to fall from their position as bourgeois into the proletariat class. Only the people who create the cheapest and highest of quality will succeed. Not only does this create suffering for that person, but it also wastes resources. All the machines in their factory will go to waste because of the high specification. Most importantly competition takes away humanity by creating a population who are hostile to each other.

Smith: How does it make everyone each others’ enemy? Working together, especially with division of labor creates higher efficiency because you aren’t switching from one task to another, and leads to further innovation.

Simon: They are enemies because in order to succeed in a capitalist economy one must destroy another person. It leads to people deriving satisfaction from others misery.

Marx: Smith you also have to think about the effects of overproduction when division of labor leads to too much efficiency.

Smith: I do not believe that there is such a thing as being excessively productive….That’s simply counterintuitive.

Marx: But when you produce too much it will lead to a surplus.

Smith: Yes a surplus that may be used to benefit the workers! They will be able to trade or increase technology with these surpluses.

Marx: Overproduction is an epidemic!

Simon: When you produce more than can be consumed you will end up with underconsumption which will lead to lower wages for the workers, and a lower quality of life.

Smith: How does this happen simply from dividing labor, and making everything more efficient?

Marx: You must see that when you take away specialization you make it so any citizen can accomplish all jobs. Now not only do you have a surplus of goods, but also a surplus of workers. Since jobs are so simplified, many people are capable of doing them, and there are no longer specialized jobs. This leads to a giant surplus of workers which allows employers to keep lowering wages. As Simon believes that competition leads to a lack of humanity, I believe that the division of labor takes away human qualities by making laborers nothing more than an extension of the machine.

Smith: But people have always worked, why now would they be so affected by their jobs?

Marx: All of the proletariat’s energy is focused on finding work, and working enough hours to be able to feed his family. This takes away his ability to maintain family values, to the point that he must send his children to work.

Simon: But do you see how the division of labor can be harmful to both classes?

Marx: The only way the bourgeois are harmed is in the revolution by the proletariat. I am organizing today who is with me?

Smith: I’m no activist. Publishing literature is enough for me.

Simon: Me too, Marx is too much of a rebel for my liking. I’m more for writing about my ideas, not taking action, but I wish you luck.

Locked Out

[Karl Marx sits in the hallway of his dorm room.  Claud de Rouvroy, who goes by “Simon”, trips over Marx’s outstretched feet.]


K: [quickly pulls his feet back] Ooh, sorry, man!

S: [getting up] Don’t worry about it… er, what are you doing?

K: I’m locked out of my room… Adam’s MIA. Have you seen him?

S: [dropping his bag and sitting down] Nah, not since Econ this morning. I’m kind of glad, though… it got a little intense today.

K: Ha, yeah, he was getting really defensive in the class discussion.  Tonight will probably be a little awkward.

S: Well yeah, the Industrial Revolution and communism/capitalism conversations always rile people up… we were totally right, though.

K: [excitedly] Oh, I know! What was he even saying?

S: I don’t know… division of labor… laissez-faire

K: That industry was toxic, though. He agreed with that.

S: [shaking his head] No no, he disagreed.  He thought the industrial boom was great for society. He kept talking about all the jobs and merchandise it created.

K: Well yeah, but at the expense of the workers.  The free market in the UK led to the Industrial revolution, which led to a huge gap between the rich and poor.

S: I think what Adam was trying to say was that when labor got competitive, wages went down, because everyone wanted whatever job they could ge-

K: Right, which is bad for the working class.  Low wages mean more members of a family are forced to work.  They devote so much of their time to work that hardly pays off- literally, because wages still drop.  And then on top of that, they were expendable. Anyone could learn to do their job, and they could be replaced immediately.  How does that help the working class?

S: Well it doesn’t, but he did mention afterward that on the other hand, when employers got competitive, wages went up.  Like a fluctuating cycle.  I think Adam was sort of saying that it could benefit the eco-

K: [scoffs] How?

S: [he takes a moment to see if Karl is going to continue] -…benefit the economy by stabilizing it.  The whole “division of labor” idea.  Everyone gets really good at one thing, does it really well, and production increases exponentially.  This creates a booming economy, and benefits all the citizens. [He pauses, frowning.] That’s where I really disagree, though.  What good is having a booming economy if the workers can never enjoy it?  Society doesn’t really improve if the rich, business-owning class is the only one that reaps the benefits.

K: Right, and that’s when Adam agreed that the working, proletariat citizens would realize they were being oppressed and revolt against the powerful bourgeoisie.  That would lead to a proletarian-controlled society that would then develop into a truly just Communist society, where everyone puts in equal work and receives equal resources.

S: Er… no. That’s when Adam started his spiel on how the proletariat individual doesn’t matter as much as the country as a whole.  If the country is being moved along by the progressive inventions of the working class, then it is a success.

K: [glaring] That’s what you think?

S: No! You asked what Adam thought! I’m agreeing with you.  The success of a nation can’t just be defined by its levels of production… especially if high production results in low quality of life for the vast majority of its citizens.

K: [throwing his hands up in frustration] Adam doesn’t get it!

S: [he nods, inspired by Karl’s enthusiasm] How can he understand the poor? He doesn’t even get financial aid! What does he know about hard work?

K: [He pauses, furrowing his brow] Simon, isn’t your dad an investment banker?

[Both boys are silent for a moment. No eye contact is made. Just as Simon is about to speak, a portly woman hastily rounds the corner.]

DPS Agent: [out of breath] I got a call for a lockout.



Two Old Friends Are Reacquainted

Thomas More and Plato, two old friends, run into one another at a Starbucks one day.

Plato: Is that—It can’t be… Thomas More?! Long time no see! How long has it been? Five years?

More: Plato! Wow good so see you, how have you been?

P: Not so good actually.  My teacher, Socrates was unjustly executed for his teachings, or as they put it “corrupting of young minds.”

M: Yeah man I heard about that. I’m so sorry. Why don’t you sit down? I’d love to catch up.

P: Sure, I’d love to! So, what are your views on democracy?

M: Very good question. I was just thinking about democracy. I, for one, think a representative democracy, with elected public officials is the way to go.  I believe that whenever an issue arises, the elected official should consult with his electors on how to proceed.

P: Hahahah oh Thomas, you always were so naïve. Haven’t you considered the implications of democracy?

M: Such as?

P: For one, with democracy comes corrupt, wealthy politicians who can practically buy their way into office.  A perfect society would function best with leaders who are educated from birth and know what is best for their country. The idea that all men are created equal is absurd. Some men are smarter and more apt than others, and clearly those should be the ones with authority.

M: But what about the majority of society and what they think? The people are the only ones who can determine who is apt to rule them, because they are the ones being ruled.  Also, how can you be so sure that everyone will be willing to fulfill their duties and contribute to society when they are not given proper representation?

P: Because everyone will work in the role best suited for him.  There is no reason to be unhappy when everyone contributes to and therefore, lives in a just and equal society.  Besides, with a democracy there is a huge imbalanced gap between the rich and the poor.  The rich people will rule and will want private property.  In democracies, people only value individual liberties and honor.  Everyone will be greedy!  There is absolutely nothing good about democracy ever.

M: Listen, I know your friend Socrates was executed and all, but get over it. There are positives to democracy that you’re completely overlooking.

(Short pause where Plato is taken aback by More’s inconsiderate and hurtful comment)

M: I’m sorry. That was uncalled for.  I was just trying to say that I don’t think you should let one event cloud your opinion. My point is, rulers who are elected by the people are bound to do what is right for the people. Not to mention, a man of the people is likely to better understand the people.

P: Hm, I guess we will never agree on this matter, best just to let it go, enjoy our coffee, and perhaps discuss less litigious subjects.

M: Yes I suppose you’re right. So, tell me, what are your views on education?

St. Simon and Smith vie for the job

The year is 2012, and St. Simon and Adam Smith appear in the corporate headquarters of a multi-national corporation known for its sleek computers and cell phones. Both are interviewing for the position of Chief Executive Officer. The two men acknowledge each other and sit in a terse silence while waiting to be called in to their interviews. Smith turns on CNN to lessen the tension.

St. Simon: Ha! Look at that. The employees in our China plant are revolting again. Good going on that one, Smith!

Smith: Not my problem, Simon. Capitalist systems aren’t responsible for the conditions within factories – all they ensure is one damn fine profit. Go cry to the HR department.

St. Simon: Typical Smith. Hey, you still doing that erroneous thing where you equate the accumulation of capital ensures the happiness of society?

Smith: The job of the workforce is to supply goods to the great masses of people who want them! Capitalism simply delivers the product that everyone wants in an efficient way. A capitalist society fosters the unity and cooperation of its citizens in the work force.

Simon: Pft! Capitalism divides industrialists who are driven by competition and creates separate classes of laborers and owners. It encourages egoism and degrades happiness to the triumph of one man over another.

Smith: You are mistaken. Capitalism allows wealth to trickle down to the workers, who in turn can purchase whatever they may have occasion for, cycling money back into the economy.

St. Simon: Right! That stuff didn’t work under Reagan and it won’t work here. Your stance degrades all matters of the human experience to the what a man’s got in the bank. The division of labor neglects to acknowledge the inherent worth of man, and instead reduces his role in society to that of a cog in a machine. The practice is dehumanizing and makes men a mere means to an end – the end being the accumulation of wealth in the pockets of the few at the expense of the masses. And on top of this, the industrialist becomes a worshiper of capital, a slave to material goods.

Smith: You’ve always been a bleeding heart. Without capitalism, the only thing that can be sure to be distributed equally is unhappiness and squalor. Our assembly lines increase the dexterity of the workers. By dividing labor we ensure the cooperation of laborers and increase morale. Our increased production bolsters lets more people buy our overpriced products, putting money into their economies and into my bank account. And hey, at least our workers people have jobs! If we pulled production out of China, there would be nothing for them. We’re doing a public service.

St. Simon: The division of labor eliminates the need for specialization or expertise. Any idiot can perform the job of one of our factory workers, and this makes him a slave to his employer, for he knows he can be replaced at any moment. And the division alienates the laborer from the product he is creating! You think any of the guys down on the assembly line have ever actually been able to afford what they spend all day producing? That’s the biggest hole in your logic Smith: though you speak of social unity, and the harmonization of supply and demand, the divide between the laborers and the factory owners creates a social disorder that negates any potential good that could come of the system of capitalism.

Smith: Hang on… why the hell are you even here, anyway?

Simon: I plan on nabbing the CEO position and driving this place into the ground.

Smith: Good luck with that. Hey, I heard that guy Marx from accounting has a crush on you.