The_Transformation_to_Capitalism.pdf - Anotida Chikumbu...

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1 Anotida Chikumbu University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA achiku[email protected] The transformation to capitalism in Britain and the world over is a spectacularly historic discourse that several scholars have examined from different perspectives. For hundreds of years scholars have produced works that explain how the transformation unfolded, what induced it and the effects it produced. This essay is an attempt to examine how a specific set of scholars examine the centrality of the state, labor, class, capital formation and the aspect of ‘proto-industrialization’. It seeks to demonstrate how these scholars are in conversation to each other and how they complement or somewhat challenge conventional and ongoing interpretations on the topic. Some of the scholars give a more global perspective while others confine their analysis to specific countries like Britain and South Africa. Jack Goldstone argues that the seventeenth and not necessarily the eighteenth century crisis fundamentally marked a turning point in the history of capitalism in the east-west geopolitical economy. 1 He studied the English Revolution of 1640, the Anatolian rebellions in the Ottoman Empire, and the fall of the Ming dynasty in China. He argues that the political rebellions in China and the Ottoman Empire were as fundamentally transformative as those of 18 th century Western Europe. 2 He further argues that the Eastern rebellions had far reaching consequences that transformed class structure and state power. 3 He concludes that the nature of socio-economic and political change in the 17 th century should be viewed as worldwide crisis of agrarian 1 Jack A. Goldstone, East and West in the Seventeenth Century: Political crises in Stuart England, Ottoman Turkey and Ming China, Comparative Studies in Society and History , Vol.30, No. 1 (1988), p.103-142 2 Ibid, p.117 3 Ibid, p.118
2 absolutist states that affected the Eastern bloc and Western monarchies with more or less the same outcomes. 4 Karl Marx however dismisses Goldstone’s revolutions in the east as mere peasant uprisings without any dynamic structural changes. He argues that the transformation to capitalism should be examined in the context of the industrial revolution in Western Europe from the 1790’s to the mid-19 th century. 5 He studied carefully the effects of the industrial revolution and wrote his thesis ‘ Das Capital ’. In this work he argues that the industrial revolution created two new social classes: the ‘bourgeoisie’ and the ‘proletariat’. 6 The bourgeoisie were the owners of industries and the ‘proletariat’ were the workers. 7 Marx further notes that the ‘bourgeoisie’, motivated by the desire to make profits exploited the workers paying them lower wages and extending their working hours.

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