Throughout the four texts, the theme of power evolves as society becomes more complex. Power changes in different contexts. In the beginning, the well known concept that knowledge is power is introduced; that power can both be given and be gained, and moving through the texts one sees how true that concept remains through history and present day. We have seen opposing interpretations of power with Rousseau in the context of Hobbes and Locke. In this case, power is linked with inequality and readers can clearly see that sources of power shift over time. From this point, we jump ahead to Marx, who believes these shifts in power; in this context he speaks about the power of higher classes, are cyclical and inevitably power will be distributed evenly after revolution. Wollstonecraft presents arguably the first feminist text in which she describes dynamics of power between men and women and how they should shift. Power and inequality are firmly linked throughout these texts and they all grapple with how to level the scales in different ways.  

This first piece addresses the role of power as knowledge through the lens of Plato's Republic. "The upward journey and the viewing of the upward world as the soul's ascent to the intelligible.(Plato).” In addition to the well known cave allegory describing the discovery and increase of knowledge as one progresses towards the light, the passing of knowledge and training of the mind and body were of utmost importance.
In this painting, one can imagine the type of world Rousseau describes before man elevates himself from animal and savage to something greater. "this period of development of human faculties, maintaining a golden mean between the indolence of the primitive state and the petulant activity of our vanity, must have been the happiest and most durable epoch. . . all subsequent progress has been in appearance so many steps toward the perfection of the individual, and in fact toward the decrepitude of the species (Rousseau)”
This depiction addresses Rousseau's concepts of property, and it's relation to inequality and power. "The first man, who, after enclosing a piece of ground, took it into his head to say, "This is mine," and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society. How many crimes, how many wars, how many murders, how many misfortunes and horrors, would that man have saved the human species, who pulling up the stakes or filling up the ditches should have cried to his fellows: Be sure not to listen to this impostor; you are lost, if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong equally to us all, and the earth itself to nobody (Rousseau)!" Although historically inaccurate, the story of Columbus is a good example of moral inequality and power.
This piece depicts the type of working environment I imagine when reading Marx. This could be a group of workers coming home for the last time before a major revolution. Here one can see the role of power does not lie with the men walking home. "The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones. Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinctive feature: it has simplified the class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes, directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat (Marx).” They look tired, are all dressed the same, and seem hunched over.
"What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, is its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable"
This portrait of a young girl is a good depiction of the demure female, one who is dependent of man and ignorant in nature."Women are told from their infancy, and taught by the example of their mothers, that a little knowledge of human weakness, justly termed cunning, softness of temper, outward obedience, and a scrupulous attention to a puerile kind of propriety, will obtain for them the protection of man; and should they be beautiful, every thing else is needless, for at least twenty years of their lives (Wollstonecraft)."
This piece can be interpreted in many ways. I see this as a depiction of three types of woman; all of whom Wollstonecraft writes about in Vindication. There is the modest woman on the left, the liberated in the middle, and the married on the right. "Let woman share the rights and she will emulate the virtues of man; for she must grow more perfect when emancipated, or justify the authority that chains such a weak being to her duty (Wollstonescraft)." Wollstonecraft challenges the inequality of woman through empowerment and education.
Credits: All media
This user gallery has been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Translate with Google