More coursework: 1 - A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I - J | K - L | M | N - O | P - S | T | U - Y

Marxism and economic theory

Marxism and Economic Theory

Human relationships have always been dynamic. Change and

adaptability have gone hand in hand with the passage of time for human

society. Systems have been developed to regulate, direct and control

the resources of this society. The systems are referred to as

governments and the resources as the populace or inhabitants and

forces of production. A government must be dynamic in its nature

reflecting the change in society. At times these systems have resisted

the necessity to adapt with its components (Society) creating a

deficit between the system and those it regulates. As the deficits

develop, they cause instability, and could lead to revolution.1

Theories have been developed to explain the systemic

phenomenon called revolution. This paper will discuss three modern

theories and apply them to the English revolution of 1640. The first

theory, developed by Carl Marx (Marxism), will address the economic

evolution in English society. This theory will emphasize and explain

how the shift from a feudal/mercantile system to capitalism affected

English society. The second, called the Resource Mobilization Theory

(RMT) developed by Charles Tilly, will explain how the English

organizations (the Crown and the Parliament) effectively obtained,

amassed and managed resources. Samuel Huntington's, "Institutional

Theory", will argue that the existing government at that time was

unable to incorporate the demands and personnel that the

socio-economic changes created.

Marxism was formulated in the 19th century. Carl Marx and his

associate Frederick Engels observed the socio-economic changes that

were transpiring in Britain. England was the dominant world power and

had the largest industrialized economy during the 1800's. The

development of the factory and the institution of the assembly line

created a large demand for workers. This demand was satiated by

migrating peasant from the rural areas in England and Ireland to

developing urban centers. As these urban centers or cities evolved

using industry as the economic backbone for the population, a large

number of factory workers were accumulated to operate the machinery in

horrid conditions. These workers, which would be termed as the

peasantry under a feudal system, were now the working class or

proletariat. They entered cities with hopes of bettering their lives

and survival. Though revolution never took place in England during

this period, it allowed Marx to study industrialization, urbanization

and imperialism.

The theory of Marxism has three basic concepts: historic

materialism, forces of production and relations of production.

Historic materialism is defined as a society's past performance and

present capabilities of satisfying the basic means of life.

Humankind's basic needs of eating, drinking and shelter need to be met

properly. The forces of production (technology, capital, the

infrastructure of society, etc.) are important for the simple fact of

who ever controls them controls the society. The last aspect of

Marxism, the relations of production, deals directly with the

relationships between classes of people (the aristocracy, the

middle-class and the working class).2

Marxism includes a predictive analysis of socio-economic

structures. Using history, logic and the dynamic nature of humankind

as guidelines, Carl Marx attempts to map out a sequence of events

which will eventually lead to utopia (anarchy). In his work, Das

Capital, Marx details the six steps. These steps are primitive

socialism, feudalism, capitalism, socialism, communism and then

anarchy. The evolution of the English economic system during the 16th

and 17th centuries points to a shift from feudalism to capitalism.

This shift is exemplified by the enclosures. The landlords began to

fence their property in the common land areas. The "commons" were

large plots of grazing and farmable lands that were used by both

farmers and artisans. When the land-owners and manorial lords began to

partition these lands the concept of private ownership of property was

introduced to the socio-economic system.3

During the time period of the 16th and 17th centuries the

crown's economic base began a gradual decline. This economic shrinkage

came to a spearhead during the reign of Charles I. The monarchy

favored a monopoly market system over a competitive one. The purpose

for this position was for taxation and control of the profits. As the

artisan and merchant populations increased, the policy of the crown

began conflicting with economic growth. This created instability in

three areas. First, the English monarchy needed money to support its

army which insures social compliance. The second area of contention

was the restraints and interference the Crown initiated on the rising

middle-class. Thirdly, the rise of the bourgeoisie created competition

for the state sanctioned monopolies, reducing its profit.

Howard Erskine-Hill refutes Marxism. He states that neither ...

"the 'rise of the gentry' ... ideas concerning resistance to rulers

... nor even the narrowing financial base of the Tudor and Stuart

monarchy ... determined the outbreak of the Civil War ... They are

circumstances . . . contributing to an outcome which was not

inevitable."4

Jack A. Goldstone, in his work Revolutions, argues that once

historical data is carefully examined Marxism falls short. The Marxist

reasons for the revolution are factors, but its scope of analysis is

to narrow.

"...the neo-Marxist view... with its focus on elite politics

and the failings of Charles I run into difficulties when confronted

with evidence."5

An example of this "evidence" that Goldstone refers to, are the

enclosures. The land owners had support from the farmers who resided

on the land. The parties that were affected by enclosure movement were

the artisans and merchants. These merchant and artisan, or rather

Marxism rising bouroeisie, were the unfortunate targets of this

policy. The rising English Bourgeoisie used the land to satisfy there

needs for resources (i.e. wood for fire and craftsmanship). Thus, a

new theory must be introduced to explain the factors leading to and

the Revolution itself.

Charles Tilly, in his work, Political Conflict Theory,

introduce the theory of "Resource Mobilization"(RMT). The two aspects

of RMT are government and those who contend with the government for

power. Power is defined as control of the resources. The resources are

capital, means of production and personnel. 6 There are three

characteristics to the RMT7 that help further explain the revolution.

First, two or more organizations (government included) must claim the

right to rule and control government. The conflict between the Crown

and the Parliament during the 1640's meet this criteria. King Charles

I during his rule attempted to close the rift between Catholics and

Protestants. This policy was disturbing to the English populace.

However, the brunt of this new policy was felt in Scotland and

perceived was a direct assault on their religious organizations. The

Scots rebelled and amassed a army to invade England an emancipate

themselves from Charles I's authority. The King needed to acquire

funds to raise an army so he called Parliament into session.

After 6 years of silence, Parliament was aggressive against

the crown. Instead of strong support for the King, they came with a

list of grievances which needed to be addressed.8 It is this

aggression which characterizes an organization contending for power in

the government. The second characteristic, is the commitment of a

significant amount of the population to each organization. In January

1642, the King attempted to arrest five MP's (Members of Parliament).

Having failed, the King traveled north to an important port which was

also a military stronghold, as well. Parliament denied him access.

This was a definite sign of the waning power of the King. Charles I

traveled to Nottingham to raise his standard. People began to rally

behind the King. Parliament severely underestimated the influence of

the Charles I and the idea of the monarchy. A significant amount of

people rallied behind the King and the Civil War soon followed9.

The third, and the most applicable, is the incapacity of

and/or the unwillingness of the government to suppress the challenges

for power. The King was desirous to put down the Scots, and eventually

Parliament, after it was called into session (long Parliament). He was

incapable in raising an army earlier without Parliament's

appropriation of the necessary funds to pay an army.10 Therefore, the

opponents of the Crown were given space to develop and acquire

resources. Resource Mobilization Theory focuses on the leadership of

both the revolutionary organization and the government in power. The

three above stated characteristics of England in the 1640's, only

emphasizes the short term factors for the revolution The fact that

Parliament is actually part of the government provides a complication

in the application of RMT. However, Parliament was struggling against

the King to acquire more control over resources. The King showed

himself as a bungling statesman in dealing with parliaments demands

and grab for power. This is a classic example that shows what happens

when "carrot ideas"11 are implemented without discretion and

supervision. It could be argued that Charles I lack of sensitivity to

the people was the cause for this lack of discretion.

Even with the application of two theories, a satisfactory

explanation of both the factors leading to the uprising and the

revolution itself are lacking. A third theory must be brought to this

case study. Samuel Huntington's, "Institutional theory", argues that

there are inherent tensions between political and economic

developments. If there are large economic changes in society then

there must be political change to guide the modifications which are

taking place, as well as, incorporating new social developments.12

England's Crown during the 17th century was lacking in ability

to be dynamic. Trade and production began to increase so did the

population. This increase created a middle-class in England. The

middle-class consisted of artisans, merchants, land owners and

landlords (these classifications are not all inclusive). Competition

between the middle-class and state encouraged monopolies became

evident during this time. There was a definite power shift away from

property to the people. 13

Another long term factor lies within the King's policy toward

the Catholics. This relaxing of tensions between the Protestants and

Catholics was not viewed as favorable by the rising gentry

(Middle-class). A form of Protestantism referred to as Puritanism was

the main belief system of the gentry. This was an extremely

conservative sect of protestantism, religious toleration was not

acceptable to them14. This was another social development which

Charles I "over-looked".

Institutionalization was never a reality in British politics

during this period in history. The organizations that existed in the

English monarchy during the early 1600's were unable to promote value

and stability. The system became rigid and unadapting to the demands

for change made by new socio-economic factors. The constant attempts

by both the Crown and the Parliament to subordinate one another

removed their ability to reach a compromise. Thus, there is not one

theory that can be used to satisfy all of the causal factors,

institutional developments and socio-economic changes of the English

revolution of 1640. Marxism addressed the changes the English economy

made creating capitalist markets and free trade. It maps out the

general factors which helped lead to capture and execution of the King

of England, Charles I. Resource Mobilization Theory argued in more

specific terms, defining that the organization which controls the

resources has the power. It clarifies the power struggle between the

Crown and the Parliament. Short term factors, present before and

during the revolution, were emphasized by RMT. The last theory

presented by this paper was Institutional Theory. It explained, in

long term factors, the causes leading to the revolution by discussing

the rise of the gentry, economics and religious intolerance.

There is no single theory to explain every relevant factor

present in revolution. However, the application of a select number or

combination of theoretical approaches, helps to establish a proper

framework for analysis of revolutions. Despite all of the ground

breaking research and theorizing being done on revolution, it still

remains a phenomenon and can not be predicted.

Source: Essay UK - http://www.essay.uk.com/coursework/marxism-and-economic-theory.php



About this resource

This coursework was submitted to us by a student in order to help you with your studies.


Search our content:


  • Download this page
  • Print this page
  • Search again

  • Word count:

    This page has approximately words.


    Share:


    Cite:

    If you use part of this page in your own work, you need to provide a citation, as follows:

    Essay UK, Marxism And Economic Theory. Available from: <https://www.essay.uk.com/coursework/marxism-and-economic-theory.php> [30-05-20].


    More information:

    If you are the original author of this content and no longer wish to have it published on our website then please click on the link below to request removal: