The Role of the Individual in Candide

All around the world the roles of the individual and of society are completely abstract. As the world changes and develops, the roles of the individual and society change to meet the needs of the people. Voltaire’s Candide which involves France during the Age of Enlightment & Marx & Engels’ Communist Manifesto which involves Germany around 1848 both discuss the roles of the individual and of society in different ways. In both pieces of literature what is expected of the individuals and of society is very different from what is presently happening.
The Communist Manifesto discusses human nature and social class while Voltaire discusses the flaws of society and the realities that not everything is for the best. In Communist Manifesto, the role of an individual is to be an equal and work towards the greater good of society and the role of society is to provide equality for all people. However in Candide, the role of an individual is to be an individual while the role of society is based upon the society you are living in. The role of the individual according to Marx and Engels is to be an equal with everyone else in society. The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: Formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat” (Communist Manifesto 13) The Bourgeois are the 0. 1% of the population that owns the means of production and The Proletariat are laborers who are 99. 9% of the population. Carl Marx states here that the goal of Communism is equality for all. If you overthrow the Bourgeois it insures that power will be balanced because its 99. 9% in control now instead it’s 0. 1% in control.
Marx describes his distaste for how everyone in society is being manipulated by the small percentage in control. Marx goes on to say that “The Bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rules of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population for the idiocy of rural life” (Communist Manifesto 7) People are being control in a majority of their daily routines and being an individual is not something truly supported by the Bourgeoisie. “You say individuality vanishes.

You must therefore confess that by “individual” you mean no other person than the bourgeois, than the middle-class owner of property” (The Communist Manifesto 16) The idea of communism is to encourage people to actually be individuals while being an active member of society. Although the role of the individual are made very clear by Marx they fail due the ideals of human nature. It is said that the human nature can be considered the downfall of communism. Communism as proposed should be extremely successful but due to human nature there is no way for communist success.
The success declines as soon as it starts because people lose motivation. People have no motivation to work as hard as they possibly can because everyone is economically equal. This is a flaw of the communist society as opposed to capitalism. Marx wants people to work as an autonomous collective to gain power and take it away from capitalism however, people are only invested in something that benefits them, and communism relies on an “all for one, one for all attitudes. According to The Communist Manifesto. the role of society is to provide equality for all people.
As stated “In bourgeois society, living labor is but a mean to increase labor. In communist society accumulated labor is but a means to widen, to enrich, to promote the existence of the laborer” (The Communist Manifesto 15) Marx describes a comparison between the society currently and what Marx’s hopes society will be. Individuals are promised so much more in a Communist society. The difference between the idea of increasing labor and widening labor although minuscule provides hope for the people who are sick of their current society. In communist society, the present dominates the past. In bourgeois society, capital is independent and has individuality while the living person is dependent and has no individuality” (The Communist Manifesto 15). This shows how people, while working toward the greater good have their own individuality under communist society. In a Communist Society although people are allowed to be unique they are all considered equal no matter what. In Candide the role of an individual is to be an individual. Voltaire, throughout the skill of repetition exploits how people behave.
He describes for instance how everyone feels someone is better off than they are. Voltaire uses Candide’s journeys to portray the human assumption that the grass is always greener on the other side. Now even though most people are not pleased with how their lives are currently, they are esteemed individuals. Individuals work for the benefits of themselves as they cultivate their farms and work hard to make sure their families are well fed and stable. “‘I have only twenty acres of land’ replied the Turk, ‘which my children and I cultivate.
Our work keeps us free of three great evils: boredom, vice and poverty’” (Candide 112). This shows how in Candide, society’s individuals work hard on their own to make something out of themselves. According to Voltaire in Candide the role of society clearly depends on what kind of society you are currently living in. Societies, according to Voltaire had many flaws. As Candide comes to the land of Eldurado, we are shown an almost flawless society. “Candide asked to see the law courts, he was told that there were none, that lawsuits were unknown.
He asked if there were prisons; the answer was no. ”(Candide 64) In this nearly flawless society all men are free and the king is the complete opposite of a tyrant. “I know my country doesn’t amount to much, but when man is fairly well of somewhere, he ought to stay there. I certainly have no right to prevent foreigners from leaving: that kind of tyranny is sanctioned by neither our customs nor our laws” (Candide 66). Another society Candide discusses is Paris. “Yes, I’ve been in Paris: it’s a mixture of everything found in all the provinces.
It’s a chaos, a restless throng in which everyone is looking for pleasure and hardly anyone finds it, or at least that’s how it seemed to me”(Candide 75) In Paris it seems that this society has no partake in it’s citizens lifestyle. The individuals yearn for what society has to offer them. Voltaire uses satire to take aim at the military, religion, and societies’ shallowness to disprove Pangloss’ theory that “all is for the best”. The world that we live in is not the best of all possible worlds.

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New York University
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