Woyzeck Social, Cultural, Historical and Political context.
Revolutions 1848 is known as the year of revolution. It all began in France, and quickly spread to the rest of Europe.There was a lot of violence, with tens of thousands of people tortured and killed.Society was polarised between the rich and the poor. The poor united against the rich, who they saw as the oppressors, and the rich united against the poor, out of fear.
Revolutions Some countries did not have revolutions at this time. The main ones include the UK, the Netherlands and Russia. However, changes were happening in Britain at this time, as new work laws came in to prevent the working classes from being treated unfairly, mainly the children who were being forced to work like slaves.
What caused the revolutions? There is a variety of causes, so we can’t place it on one particular movement or event. Technology is a big factor. It changed the lives of the working classes, as it was easier to communicate new political ideas. This is how people became aware of things like liberalism, nationalism and socialism. Crop failures, especially in 1846 meant starvation and poverty for the peasants and the poor, which induced anger and a desire and need for change.
The middle class Karl Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto in 1848. During this time, the middle class people were also agitating, as well as the working class. They had similar aims, and opposed the monarchy. The French, led by Louis- Napoleon ended their monarchy, only to have it re- established 4 years later in 1852. Then revolts occurred in the cities, before spreading elsewhere.
City Revolts The poor people of France flocked to the cities, as the rural areas were overcrowded. Here, they had to work in appalling conditions. They would work from 13-15 hours a day, and had to live in disease ridden slums. The rich feared the poor, after the revolutions of 1789, and saw them as dirty and uneducated. Social critics like Marx became popular, as did secret societies. (Buchner himself formed a secret society, as well as joining one for human rights.)The poor workers wanted the right to vote. Germany was in a similar state. Woyzeck would have been living and working in these kind of conditions.
Rural Revolts. Due to the boom in population, there were shortages in food and land. Many people migrated, often to America. Disease was rife, particularly cholera, which no- one yet knew was related to dirty water. In 1845-46, there was a potato blight, which originated in Belgium, but mostly affected Ireland, causing a famine. All the aristocrats owned the land, and had the peasants under their control.
Democracy, liberalism, nationalism and socialism. What did this mean at the time?Democracy: Universal male suffrage.Liberalism: Consent of the governed, restriction of church and state power, freedom of the individual.Nationalism: Uniting people bound by common languages, religion, culture and immediate geography. Germany at the time, consisted of several states, not one country.Socialism: More power for workers, and owning their means of production.
March Revolution Mass demonstrations happened in Germany in March 1848. They wanted a national German parliament, more freedom and unity.This was happening all over Europe.Many Historians consider the revolutions of 1848 a failure, as not a lot changed visibly afterwards. The revolutionaries lacked leadership.However, Germany and Italy achieved political unification.
Important quotes from Buchner: “The life of the wealthy is one long Sunday.”“We are always on stage, even when we are stabbed in earnest at the end.”“We are only puppets; our strings are being pulled by unknown forces.”“You women could make someone fall in love, even with a lie.”