"Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly found, given and transmitted from the past."
This statement stood out to me when I first read it in Marx's essay and as I continued to read, the phrase seemed more and more valid. Not only is the phrase representative of the issues that Bonaparte faced while in power, it is a fundamental idea that people, in general, should be aware. I felt this phrase resonated greatly when Marx describes why the "small peasants" didn't have a revolutionary presence at first. The lives of the "small peasants" were greatly rooted in their traditional ways of living from the past. Marx describes how these "small peasants" lived in small communities, but didn't unite or find common ground with other groups of "small peasants" because of their lifestyle. According to Marx, most "small peasants" were completely self-sustaining, which meant that they didn't need to have relations with anyone outside of their immediate family. Therefore, the past dictated the lives of these "small peasants", not allowing them to completely make their own history. On another level, Bonaparte had to attempt to appease all of the pre-set classes of France, which was impossible because coming to the aid of one group meant neglecting or angering another. All of these elements from the past, of which Bonaparte had no control, made it impossible for Bonaparte to completely make his own history. The decisions that he made were brought about by the past, with the past in mind.
1 year ago