The Conditions of the Working Class in England in 1844- Friedrich Engels

After reading chapter three of Engels’ The Conditions of the Working Class in England in 1844, the question of the interpretation of division between the bourgeoisie and the working class came to mind.  Does Engels want us to interpret the division between these two classes as more of a physical divide, as in the division of the neighborhoods, living conditions, and behaviors?  Or is this more of a mental divide- a division that is only made available by attitudes and beliefs?  On the one hand, the majority of this chapter is purely description of the horrible living conditions of the working class.  Also, the chapter begins with descriptions of the neighborhood and says that “the town itself is peculiarly built, so that a person may live in it for years, and go in and out daily without coming into contact with a working people’s quarter or even with workers….”  These descriptions may make readers begin to think that there is no real divide between the bourgeoisie and the working class; only that of a difference in living conditions and areas.  Conversely, that same quote could be interpreted as meaning that the upper class needs to be separated from the working class because of their attitudes and beliefs.  Furthermore, Engels’ says that money and making profits are more important to the upper class.  In discussing the upper class, Engels says “…with sole reference to the highest possible profit…and with this reflection the bourgeoisie is comforted.”  So the question is: do attitudes and beliefs or simply living conditions form the true divide between the upper class and the working class?  Or could it be a combination of both?  These are questions to ponder when reading and interpreting The Conditions of the Working Class in England in 1844.

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