In Marx's work, "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louise Bonaparte," he extensively uses the term "peasant" to discuss the land-laboring class of people in his discussion on material and political relationships. He describes them as, "the mass of the French people" (607).
"Peasant" is defined by the OED in many ways and variations, including:
1. "A person who lives in the country and works on the land, esp. as a smallholder or a labourer; (chiefly Sociol.) a member of an agricultural class dependent on subsistence farming."
2. "In negative sense: a countryman or rustic, regarded as ignorant, crass, or rude. Usu. with derogatory modifying word."
3. "As a term of abuse: a person of low social status; an ignorant, stupid, unsophisticated, or (formerly esp.) unprincipled person; a boor, a lout; (also more generally) a person who is regarded with scorn or contempt, esp. by members of a particular social group."
By using this term, Marx could be said to be degrading this group of people, since most of the definitions have negative connotations. Nonetheless, I believe Marx is choosing to say that only the "conservative peasant" lacks accomplishment (609). By calling the Bonapartes the "dynasty of the peasants," and referring to any peasant falling under this era to be "the peasant who wants to consolidate [his social existence]," and "those who, in stupefied bondage to this old order, want to see themselves with their small holding saved and favoured by the ghost of the empire," Marx asks the question of why these particular peasants choose to support an order that does not mean freedom or better lives (607-09). Marx does not use the word "peasant" in order to show derision to this group of impoverished individuals, but to draw attention to the fact that they could choose to be more than mere "peasants" - they could be revolutionaries.
2 years ago