19th Century Social Thought Other chapter (not listed above)

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nineteenth century middle class and Marx, Freud, and suffragettes

Members of a mostly male middle class dominated politics and society in the mid-nineteenth century in states such as Britain and France. How did the ideas and actions of Marx, Freud, and the suffragettes challenge their self-assured confidence in themselves and the societies they led as the turn of the century approached?

Towards the end of the 19th century, fears of growing worker radicalization led some employers to establish small pension and worker's compensation funds to provide greater security for their employees (786). Many also employed what today would be considered relatively paternalistic systems of overseeing worker conduct in exchange for providing access to lodging and other amenities to ensure that workers were 'protected' (without, of course, being unionized). Germany was more proactive in instituting such reforms, however, while the workhouse system still was used in Britain to keep track of the 'undeserving' poor. To underline the extent to which workers were overworked by today's standards, the first Factory Act reduced workers' hours to a maximum of 56 hours per week (785). The trade union movement across Europe began to gain traction as workers grew increasingly restless at what they saw as societal inequities (787). The new emphasis on scientific management only increased worker radicalization as it emphasized reducing worker movements to regimented actions and further disenfranchised skilled workers.

But while both blue and white-collar unionization exploded as a result of dissatisfaction, unionization of women workers lagged behind. Women were relegated to low-skilled employment and the ideology of the era denied the right of women to work at all, conveniently forgetting the fact that despite the middle class ideology of the angel in the home, working class women often had no choice but to work. The so-called 'suffragettes' who lobbied to extend the vote to all women were a reflection of the growing disparities between men and women, particularly in the more socially mobile capitalistic workplace. Although some women did make inroads into the professions, they were often greeted with calls of derision and Queen Victoria herself opposed women's rights (796). Gradually, women won the right to own property as married women; to have custody over their own children; and to sue for divorce (797). The relationship of the feminist movement to colonialization, however, was complex, given that 19th century feminists often allied themselves with the colonial impetus, viewing Europeans as a liberating force to women who were kept in chains by 'backward' cultures (797). Some suffragettes were noted for their radicalism, including Emilia Pankhurst who bombed the house of the Liberal leader Lloyd George and Emily Davidson who committed suicide by throwing herself in front of the king's horse at Epson Downs (798).

The slow response of the major European governments to undertake radical reform resulted in an explosion of the International Socialist movement, inspired by Marx's ideas. However, not all socialists believed that full-scale revolution was the only path to reform and many strove to work within the…

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