View Full Version : Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne, and.... Marx?
08-16-2000, 12:59 AM
lee was good enough to [url="http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=34787"]question what in hell Bartelby is about[/i]. That reminded me of another thing.
Hawthorne spent three years at Old Manse in Concord, in the company of Thoreau and Emerson. Here, apparently, Transcendentalism was born. At school, I was taught that these folks lived a utopian existence, largely money-free, existing and finding the time to write about, well, transcendental things, like stovepipe-hatted eyeballs and such.
Were my professors spreading communist doctrine, and/or were the Transcendentalists, if anyone?
08-16-2000, 01:01 AM
How many times must I do this before I learn to preview? (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=34787)
08-16-2000, 10:32 AM
I wouldn't consider the Transcendentalists particularly close to Marxism, although there are certainly surface similarities.
Yes, the Transcendental movement did decry the soulless capitalism and meaninglessness of easy city life -- which is really funny when you think about it: Thoreau went to Walden pond to escape cities that had only gaslight, no washing machines, no microwave ovens, no refrigeration or air conditioning, no telephones, few indoor bathrooms. We would consider the CITY life of his time to be amazingly rustic and uncluttered by today's standards. But I digress -- the heart of the movement, though, was reactionary: rid yourself of your reliance on modern society, relinquish all conveniences, and commune with nature to discover the real, transcendental truths of life.
Marxism, OTOH, was an explicitly modernist movement: the technological backwardness of most Communist countries wasn't an ideological outgrowth of Marxism, but a result of central planning stifling market innovation. Marx saw the modern state, with its factories and railroads, as a great achievement, and only decried the poor working conditions of the industrial laboring class.
So while both movements hated money, factories and factory owners, their reasonings were totally different: the Transcendentalists wanted to move backward, to simpler times, when every needful good was manufactured in the home; Marx wanted to move forward, to make a world where there were great factories and industries, but they were owned and operated by willing, cheerful workers, each receiving an equal share of the profit.
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