Social Change and the American Revolution


After reading some articles in my Art History class about the American Revolution and the political dynamics surrounding it, I began to see many relationships between this and what we have been discussing about social change.  Before the Revolutionary War, American colonists were under the rule of the British monarchy, or as Hobbes might put it, they were the subjects of a British sovereign.  After the Seven Year’s War, Britain imposed taxes on the colonists to help pay for the cost of the war.  Since the colonists did not have a direct representative in Parliament they felt they were being exploited and thus a revolt ensued.  The sovereign was no longer representing the will of his subjects and so a portion of the commonwealth broke away and resorted to violence to assert their power.  After winning the war, some sort of collective power needed to be established, and so 13 colonies joined together in a confederation, each establishing republican governments.

As industry advanced and America expanded its trading to include foreign countries such as China and Britain, the need for increased means of production arose.  This included territorial expansion as well.  Colonists claimed the land as their right, and began to exploit Native Americans who were living there.  In doing this, the colonists were only perpetuating the cycle of collecting wealth and capital, and by so doing they were creating an inequitable distribution of resources setting the stage for the next revolt.  There was a clash of ideologies resulting from differing material conditions/economic structures. By depriving the Native Americans of their land, which was their means of production, the colonists in effect (whether an intended consequence or not) forced them into a lower class status of existence. Perhaps if there was more general consciousness of the social dynamics at play as Marx suggests, both parties could come to a mutual understanding. At this point I cannot come to a conclusion on how Marx’s ideas could resolve the conflict between such drastically differing social cultures as the colonists and the Native Americans.


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