Wollstonecraft and Marx

“After attacking the sacred majesty of kings, I shall scarcely exit surprise by adding my firm persuasion that every profession, in which great subordination of rank constitutes its power, is highly injurious to morality.” I chose this line because this is where Mary Wollstonecraft transitions from her criticisms of the monarchy and those ruling civilians to her criticisms of all who are more powerful in the workplace and who utilize power over others to their benefit. This is a critical step because many discussed their issues with the autocracy of the government, however not all recognized the smaller- scale occurrences in everyday life. She continues on to use armies as examples of ineffective institutions for humanity as “subordination and rigor are the very sinews of military discipline,” and thus will not provide the very freedoms that humans will look for in the long run. Wollstonecraft provides a look into our very institutionalized power struggles- where citizens can not exclusively blame the monarchy and must turn towards the struggles within each other.

In this section of the passage, Wollstonecraft appears to have a similar perspective to that of Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto, written about 50 years later. Just as she recognized the power dynamics of society and how that influences humanity, Marx also attempts to address the issue of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat who are bound in an inevitable power struggle based on their class. Estranged Labor also appears reminiscent of Wollstonecraft, as she mentions that “authority pushes the crowd of subalterns forward, they scarcely know or care why, with headlong fury,” showing how those subordinate lose themselves in the work they do- in the work that is chosen for them. Both works recognize how this harms the character of the individual, as Wollstonecraft states that “the character of every man is, in some degree, formed by his profession,” and Estranged Labor similarly recognized that the worker is distanced from their own identity. Both attribute this to the lack of personal choice in the professions, and trace that back to those with more power in the workplace who make decisions for others.

2 thoughts on “Wollstonecraft and Marx

  1. I like how you acknowledged that Wollstonecraft, unlike her contemporaries, addressed oppression at a very personal level. I think she was being introspective in arguing that people ought to not only blame those governing them, but to also strive to remedy the struggles among them.

  2. Interesting analogy, though Wollstonecraft seems to advocate for an improvement of conditions where Marx and Engels want a complete overhaul of the economy. Nonetheless, you bring up some good points.

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