From Sieyès to Lenin: Labor, Class and the Quest for Social Inclusion
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From Sieyès to Lenin: Labor, Class and the Quest for Social Inclusion

Abstract

AbstractFrom Sieyès to Lenin: Labor, Class and the Quest for Social Inclusion Natalia Koulinka Different interpretations of the concepts of “the people” and “labor” lie at the core of the difference between liberalism and socialism, as argued by Lenin. The theoretical division results in opposing visions of the socioeconomic and political changes required to make a society just. It also underlies the rival answers to the question of what it means for the laboring classes to be socially included. One of the most important disagreements concerns whether political rights and civil liberties alone constitute the necessary and sufficient condition for democracy or whether they must be complemented, as socialists insist, by universal social, or economic, rights. This dissertation explores the ideas of “the people” and “labor/work” as they were employed and developed in the arguments for the right of “laboring/working classes” to be fully empowered members of society on the eve of two revolutions—the French Revolution of 1789 and the Proletarian Revolution in Russia in 1917. In particular, it closely examines the pamphlet by Sieyès What Is the Third Estate? published a few months before the French Revolution, in which its author contends that it is the labor of the Third Estate that gives it the right to demand its due place in the political system of France. Sieyès’ argument is counterposed by the socioeconomic and political analyses of Russian thinkers of the mid-nineteenth-the early twentieth century: Nikolai G. Chernyshevskii, Dmitrii I. Pisarev, Nikolai K. Mikhailovskii, and Vladimir I. Lenin. Special attention is given to Lenin’s controversy over the issue of “the laboring peasantry.” One contribution of the dissertation is that it introduces a number of previously untranslated primary sources to an English language readership, including significant works by Chernyshevskii, Pisarev, and Mikhailovskii. Most importantly, it contributes to the debates on democracy’s meaning and conditions of possibility by explicating Lenin’s analysis of hired labor under the capitalist organization of production as a specific form of labor with inherent inequalities that put a class of low-wage hired laborers at a permanent disadvantage.

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