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September 18, 2007

Comments

Brendan Gluck

Although I agree with the previous posters that education would help curb Orwell’s negative view concerning the Bourgeoisie’s naivety on understanding the importance of the proletariat in the economy as a whole as well as increase the proletariat’s possibility of social mobility, I do not see how educating the working class would completely wipe out the class system. Inevitably, some people will be more educated and well off than others, which will continue the perpetual state of division between the proletariat and bourgeois. The only way socialism will come about is with a Marxian revolution, where the entire system of classes collapses because there is no way the bourgeois will allow themselves to converge with the proletariat. As Keynes realized, people are inherently greedy, especially the ones on top, who in turn, are the most powerful. Therefore, any attempt at a convergence of classes will be met with stiff opposition from the bourgeois, since they will undoubtedly try to protect their current wealth and possibility for future accumulation. The fact that the bourgeoisie thrives when the proletariat is suppressed and kept in a powerless state proves the need for some type of revolution or immense event that completely obliterates the current foundation that Britain’s economy is based on as well as negates the idea that simply educating people will bring about this socialist utopia.

While I think Orwell’s attempt to completely change the system of capitalism is futile, there are ways in which society can change in order to level the playing field. Hobson’s idea to use excess savings from the rich on public works projects, like education and healthcare, would decrease the gap between the bourgeois and proletariat and foster progress and innovation. This plan can also be combined with Keynes’ request for semi-autonomous bodies to put into effect these social good projects, so that the ever-present influence of the greedy bourgeoisie does not tamper with the leveling out of the playing field that Orwell believes is necessary for the survival of the system.

Tal Yeshanov

I agree with Vera's post because I do believe that George Orwell's solution is unrealistic. People cannot be expected to act a certain way 'just because'. For people to perform certain actions they need to understand the reasoning behind them, and Orwell does not provide a clear explanation relating to why people should drop their 'social class' and realize a common interest. This of course, feeds directly into Orwell's dilemma.

In his writing, The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell argues that the implementation of socialism is necessary for England's industrial problem due to the fact that the capitalist system has failed society and thus he argues that society is in need of change. The problem here is that in order for that change to come about individuals need to stop distinguishing between the classes. Such an act would be very difficult since people's actions are governed by the way they were brought up within their class. Not only would it be difficult to abolish classes, it would also be rather difficult to understand the needs of people from different classes and to accommodate all. This is perhaps one of the reasons why Orwell did not find the socialist of his time "attractive" to the cause. The socialists of his time were not able to get together and decide on the cause and thus there was confusion amongst people from different classes. The dilemma for Orwell is that since individuals from different classes cannot come together, then nothing will be done in order to improve the current state of the society (since Orwell thinks capitalism is an inhumane and corrupt system). Under capitalism, the working class is seen as the class that labors away in the mines and yet does not have all the luxuries of societies. This posses a problem since capitalism does not distribute the wealth in the society equally. However, Orwell believes that under the system of socialism, people would be able to have a more equitable division of wealth in accordance to their labor.

Vaclav  Burger

In The Road to Wigan Pier, by George Orwell, we are introduced to the harsh working conditions of the people in the industrial heartland north of England. The first part of his book focuses on aspects such as housing, financial, and social conditions, which are all discussed as being poor.
The second part of Orwell’s book talks about whether or not these conditions are capable of improvement through the implementation of socialism. A main point to take away from Orwell is his words on class division and the exploitation of certain groups. There has to be some unification among classes to see the fruits of socialism. As mentioned by one of my peers, Orwell does argue unsuccessfully for the role of education, which is a common goal that enables more of the public to knowledge about their present situation. There are two problems that I would like to mention. The first is that most of the time, the upper class, or class that is happy with conditions usually will not have a problem with the current state of conditions. And the second problem I have is that a society with these conditions tries to create general cure, or a group that will allow it to be led, rather then lead itself.

Christy Fox

Throughout George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Peir, Orwell describes the atrocities of capitalism through stories of each sort of negative externality created by capitalism. A solution to his problem of protecting/aiding the lower and middle classes is threefold: education, as Evan pointed out, welfare, as Adriana was touching on and regulation. The government or state should be responsible for providing education, funded by taxes, mostly of the upper classes. Furthermore, taxes can supply the welfare state that allows broken or poor families get on their feet again or for the first time. However, Orwell illustrates public animosity towards the idea of living off of someone else's money when he describes the story of the old age pensioners. The reason for the animosity is perception.

This is where education comes in. It is important to educate the people in areas like economics, so they understand the basic idea of how money moves. In this way, the perception of welfare may change to the idea that the money invested into a poor family will one day come back to those investors.

Lastly, the government must regulate industrialization. Protecting workers in factories and mines is the best way to ensure the highest productivity. A safe workplace will increase the people's trust in government and industry, giving them incentives to continuing producing and providing the means for a wealthy state.

In conclusion, government must step in on some levels to ensure that capitalism and it's negative byproducts do not run amuck.


(Sorry, Evan and Adriana are in the other section, I was looking at that discussion)

Nick Nejad

My respect for Orwell has entirely diminished after reading this work. Orwell is a man big on opinions, short on facts. Most of his beliefs stem from anecdotal ideas that one can not generalize to represent everyone. His arguments miss the point, he is one-sided and naive, and he contradicts himself on many issues. The problem, as I see it, is that Orwell gives no thought to the individual, and rather believes everyone is the same and has the ability to do anything everyone else does. What he entirely misses is the idea of knowledge.

Orwell begins the story by discussing the flaws he sees in capitalism- terrible conditions, mass unemployment, poor housing, etc. He sees the situation these people were in however as “inevitable”. To him, a certain portion of people were destined to be unlucky and left without work due to factors outside of their control. He supports the working class view that education is a waste by quoting their remarks that education has not helped them at all. And for these people, it probably hasn’t- but that is because they did not make an effort to learn what was worthwhile or to learn it well. In all likelihood, that is why they are stuck in a job (or have no job) which requires no “competitive advantage”- that is to say, anyone can do. Hundreds of years ago, people had to work all day to support themselves and their families. Today because of mechanization, one can afford basic necessities while doing much less work than their ancestors, and have much more excess time. Unfortunately, there is a wide degree of variety in how people choose to use this free time. The vast majority of people choose to enjoy the present. Others choose to sacrifice today to learn in order to make do for a better future. If this decision did not exist, then society would advance at a much slower pace. And yet, this is what Orwell seems to call for. He says he views mental education as a waste, and that he prefers more education in crafts and hands-on skills (That is a funny argument to make for someone who sees mechanization taking over the tasks of all things basic) He completely disregards the fact that it is because we can think that we can create machinery to simplify our lives. Machinery will in all likelihood never have the same capacity to think as we will. And perhaps, to take an extreme example, one day machines will be able to do all mechanical work in our day, but there will always be certain things that require the human’s ability to think. That is why a good mental understanding of the world should be emphasized, because that is the one aspect that machines will not be able to replace you in.

Perhaps if Orwell took education more seriously his arguments on Socialism would not have left me so dumbfounded. It is his honest belief that the reason many people disregard Socialism is not because the idea is bad, but because they “object to Socialists,” the people. And rather than describe what I would say as the main fault with Socialism- that it will fail miserably because there is no incentive to perform good work- he sidesteps that discussion entirely and instead says this is just a natural reaction because people fear “it would work too well”. In fact, he thinks people’s biggest concern is that once they socialize, a world of mechanization will just magically pop up and everything will be too easy, making people yearn for the more simple times. How he makes that transition is beyond me. But even for those who agree with his belief that mechanization will lead to a disenchantment of the world, I would say that again, knowledge is the key. Machines will never play sports, they will never appreciate natural things, and they will never make great music. There is a whole world out there in which your mental capacity allows you to do something that is both unique and joyous, and that is something industrialization will never take away. I think we as a society should be striving to create a world where we can focus on those things and still have our basic necessities provided for, and capitalism is leading us in the right direction. There are some inequities in capitalism, but completely halting progress by implementing Socialism is not the answer.

Anthony Yates

Orwell dedicates the first several chapters of The Road to Wigan Pier to the portrayal of the wretched conditions endured by the working class, the poverty and filth which signify the failure of English capitalism. Socialism, he argues, is the logical alternative, but huge barriers stand firmly in the way of its progress.

The vast rift between classes is one of these obstacles. Though anachronistic, according to Orwell, its deeply imbedded distinctions---in accent, taste, manner---prevent them from working together towards a system of classless unification in the name of the common good. The natural repulsion of the bourgeois towards, among other things, the smells and mannerisms of the proletariat disincline them towards feelings of equality, and attempts to mask this disgust are pitiful and patronizing. This insincerity is abundantly clear to the proletariat, who know full well that the bourgeois does not consider them equals, and thus too are hostile to cooperation.

Another is the identity crisis which Socialism is suffering in England. Orwell describes:

We have reached a stage when the very word 'Socialism' calls up, on the one hand, a picture of aeroplanes, tractors, and huge glittering factories of glass and concrete; on the other, a picture of vegetarians with wilting beards, of Bolshevik commissars (half gangster, half gramophone), of earnest ladies in sandals, shock-headed Marxists chewing polysyllables, escaped Quakers, birth-control fanatics, and Labour Party backstairs-crawlers. Socialism, at least in this island, does not smell any longer of revolution and the overthrow of tyrants; it smells of crankishness, machine-worship, and the stupid cult of Russia.

Orwell identifies the real problem. Nobody really understands what socialism is in England. It is supposed to be “Justice and Liberty!” but is completely misrepresented, and at fault are the socialists themselves. The socialist image demands a makeover. Orwell writes:

I do not think the Socialist need make any sacrifice of essentials,
but certainly he will have to make a great sacrifice of externals.

And he is right! The essential elements, an opposition to tyranny and oppression and the quest for justice and the common good for all, must emerge in the new picture of Socialists. Out with the uninspiring buzzwords and jargon; the bookish, ideological Socialist’s catchphrases are exclusionary to many working-class followers and outsiders alike. Most aptly, says Orwell:

It is fatal to let the ordinary inquirer get away with the idea that being a Socialist means wearing sandals and burbling about dialectical materialism. You have got to make it clear that there is room in the Socialist movement for human beings, or the game is up.

But the phraseology is not the only tool of exclusion in play. The Socialist machine is actively advocating the very class partisanship which it ought to condemn. The “proletarian cant” heroizes the “muscular but downtrodden man in greasy overalls” in contrast to the “capitalist,” the “fat, wicked man in a top hat and fur coat.” These images are visually polarizing, at odds with a theme of unification. It also ignores the middle class, which, as Orwell argues, is exactly where Socialism will find its strongest support. No longer is this manual laborer the icon of the movement; indeed, the very expression “proletariat,” which Orwell believes (probably correctly) suggests a man without a collar, must be expelled from Socialist dialogue. The class warfare which such depictions encourage is anathema to the Socialist cause; for this middle class has evolved from upper class roots, and if it comes to choosing sides, they will “forget their incomes and remember their accents, and fly to the defence of the class that is exploiting them.” Socialism in England must reinvent itself to open the doors to the common man, and to hell with the pistachio shirts and sandals.

And the time is now.

Fascism, at this point of time, constitutes a serious menace in Europe at this time. It has grown into an international movement (Italy, Japan, and Germany). And it is a very real possibility in England, in the opinion of Orwell.

Amidst a population in economic turmoil and fast reconsidering its fundamental beliefs, a Socialism with inclusive policies, an essentialist forward-looking Socialism, may be able to respond to the dangerous rumblings of Fascism, and by showing its innate evils and the comparative benefits of Socialism, take root in the very fissures it has opened up.

Kenichiro Nakahara

During the time of Great Depression and the terrible working environment seen in England, George Orwell feels that the old capitalist system is too broken and too inhumane to be allowed to continue. I solution to this, he mentions “Socialism” but as discussed in Road to Wigan Peir, he does not find the socialists of his days attractive at all and comes up with his perspective. The biggest point of Orwell’s argument is that in order to pursue Socialism and demolish Capitalism, the biggest obstacle society faces is the destruction of “class structure”. As discussed by Karl Marx and Engels, class is generally divided into the “bourgeois” and “proletariats” (working class). Orwell says that since we have been accustomed in capitalism so long, the class division has instead become “exploiter”(bourgeois) and “exploited” (working class) and without the abridgement of these classes Socialism would not occur.

One point that I agree with Orwell is his emphasis in defining this abridgment of the two classes. When mentioned “Socialism”, people tend to think that it is building an average, over-all descent wealth society. Orwell disagrees with this idea and mentions that instead of bringing the bourgeois down, we need to bring up the level of the working class and in the long run this would lead to the good and strength of the society. In order to accomplish this transition however, “understanding self”; is the first step that people must take and this I feel is very “easier said than done”. As many postings before suggests, like many theorists, Orwell’s arguments and model may have been idealistic. However, I agree with Zack that there is no need to criticize him for this idealistic view. From my impression, his writing seemed that he was confident in the analysis of the problem but was seeking for opinions in order to solve the “inhumane” capitalistic system of his time. As a matter of fact, without knowing it we may be heading towards this capitalistic system even today, considering the widening gap of earnings say in countries like the United States.

Thomas York

Orwell's knowledge of class distinctions arise from his distance position in English society. While some in our class (Hye Jin, Will Chin) advocate the destruction of class distinctions, I suspect that England's entrenched class barriers are too difficult to destroy or reform. Even to this day, England's politics have centered around Class. Thus I simply can't find "eliminating class distinctions" politically solvent nor effective.

While I agree with Christy Fox that education is necessary, I don't think simply educating those who fund welfare that they will receive returns is necessarily solvent. Even a combination of education and attempted class distinction destruction seems a bit difficult when England's class system and political hierarchy are so entrenched.

I believe the solution to Orwell's dilemma lies in his proposal to make socialism more appealing to the educated English man. The problems he discusses with socialism are even still relevant today (supporters who seem distant from the working class cause, the attraction of all far-left "cranks," meetings that don't even make sense to the proletariat), but many of the platforms that "socialism" proposed have come about today simply by integration into mainstream political advocacy. A more mainstream "socialist" party or the incorporation of socialist platforms into other parties politically legitimizes the reforms that Orwell finds necessary to mitigate the pain of poverty.

pierre mouillon

In this book, George Orwell’s work appears as a testimony full of humanity and humility. Indeed, over his several weeks experience in the mines, he discovers the daily life of miners and more generally the complex process on which the British post-industrial society is based. He argues that these people do not receive the respect they deserve. He describes how difficult is a working day for coal miners which can represent seven hours of efficient work in addition to the time spent walking in the mines. Minors have terrible and unsecured working conditions, their salaries and other compensations are also very low. For Orwell, it makes no doubt that Capitalism is responsible of such stratification in the English society and then leads the proletariat to revolutionary ideas. Orwell thinks that the solution to end the problem of classes would be to implement Socialism. However, I think his view on socialism is too idealistic; indeed, for him socialism should make sure that every family has enough to eat, socialism is the equal share of income in the work place among people wit no dissociation of classes. Socialism is only “justice and self respect”. Nevertheless, Orwell disagrees with Marx theory that socialism is inevitable and that it will be the answer to the flaws of the capitalist system. He also disagrees with Lenin’s thesis that Revolution is the ultimate solution to implement Socialism in a society. Orwell gives the reason why socialism is so hard to be peacefully implemented. He explains the struggles of the bourgeoisie to accept solving social problems that would lead to improve the situation of the proletariat. Reading the other posts, I think Vera made a really good point saying that bourgeoisie and the proletariat should realize that they have common interests. Indeed, people from the bourgeoisie really like their situation, they own assets, and have intellectual or administrative jobs. This where the struggle form the two classes comes from because manual work is badly perceived by the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie would not give up their situation if they were to do such jobs. Another reason why socialism does not implement easily is that socialism and progress are linked, indeed socialism and industrialization work together so any thought against industrialization is also against socialism. I would agree with most of my classmates saying that the solution to Orwell’s dilemma should be to educate the bourgeoisie in a different way, it means stop talking about the widely spread idea of classes where somebody is already socially defined at birth. Orwell denounce that kind of education where people from the middle class are taught at their youngest age that disdaining the lower class is a normal thing to do.

Chun Chung Chan

Orwell says that in order for him to pursue socialism, he has to go into the society to see the people and to feel how tolerable it is. Therefore, Orwell writes some sort of travel journal in the first part. And then, Orwell tries to discuss why socialism cannot take place if socialism is just some common sense to most of the people. The most important factor is the class, people are reluctant to interact or participate in lower class’s activities. The accents of the language, the smell of the workers, the education are all contributing the differences that Orwell experiences during the journey to Wigan Pier. Orwell also says there is discrepancy between the different kinds of socialists. Some just want the society to be just to all the poor people, some recognize the industrialization as an end, some realize socialism is not yet full implementable. Orwell’s stance is more towards how the ideology is unfit to the society at this point.

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