Chart on DARWIN, MARX, AND EINSTEIN What were the impactsof the ideas of DARWIN, MARX, and EINSTEIN upon popular culture and the mass society of the early 20th century Darwin's impact - Marx's impact - Einstein's impact -

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Number 8: You're talking about the United States, I was talking about Europe. European labor unions, especially those in Germany, were heavily influenced by Marxist revionist thinking, which emphasized not class revolution, but working within the contexts of precisely the structures of government that you describe. Suggesting that a moderate like George Meany is somehow representative of all labor unions at all places at all times is completely ahistorical, as is conflating Marx with 20th century notions of communism. In any case, even within the United States, many labor unions embraced Marxist ideas about the relationship between workers and capital. You cite George Meany, I could just as easily cite Bill Haywood or Eugene Debs. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Marx's ideas also inspired the socialist movements and labor organizations that were instrumental in achieving vital reforms for workers. Millions of Europeans in industrialized countries joined leftist organizations whose leaders were influenced by Marxist thought. Most of the "brutal and murderous dictatorships" of the twentieth century seized on the strains of Marxism that they could use to provide ideological support for power. Others drew on other intellectual traditions. But North Korea has little to do with Marx as he was understood in his own time and immediately after, which was the topic of this question.

As for Einstein and Freud, both contributed to an atmosphere of intellectual uncertainty in the early twentieth century. Einstein seemed to suggest, among other things, that our understanding of the natural world was not based on knowable truths, and Freud argued that mankind was driven as much by irrational urges as by reason. Their work, along with thinkers like Nietszche, undermined many of the basic assumptions that educated Europeans had shared since at least the Enlightenment.

This mood was reflected in the art, music, and literature of the period, which tended to reject traditional conventions- think of writers like Kafka, painters like Picasso, and composers like Stravinsky. The First World War only accelerated this trend, giving rise to writers like Joyce and TS Eliot and artists like the Dada movement.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Marx did indeed have an enormous impact on the twentieth century. Thanks to his ideas, some of the most brutal and murderous dictatorships in the history of mankind were established. A couple of them are still around. North Korea is a great example of a society that still takes Marx seriously.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Albert Einstein (1872-1955) is seen as the central figure in the Second Scientific Revolution, analogous to Isaac Newton (1642-1727) in the First Scientific Revolution in the 1700's. Newton is credited as one of the developers of calculus, with which he was able to describe the workings of the physical world mathematically.  His system worked well until the late 1800's, when science was attempting to apply its understanding of physics to the atom -- where it failed. Einstein's Special and General Theories of Relativity ushered in the Quantum Mechanics Age, culminating in the understanding that matter and energy are the same thing. His thinking divided physics into Classical and Modern applications.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Darwin also had a great impact on society and popular culture. Look at the Darwin Awards. People are "celebrated" for their ignorant behaviors (which speaks to Darwin's idea of Survival of the Fittest). While some people may not know about Darwin's direct influence, any web-surfer has certainly come across the Darwin Awards.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Marx had a huge impact on society.  He influenced the Russian Revolution and other communist revolutions.  His ideas were innovative.  He believed that the common people should not be under the yoke of dictators, and under capitalism many worked and few had wealth.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial