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The Things That Lead To The Rise Of Capitalism According To Karl Marx And Max Weber

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Karl Marx’s Point Of View

Karl Marx emphasizes capital through his theory of primitive accumulation.  Primitive accumulation is referred to the starting point of capitalism and the most significant part in the development of it.  Primitive accumulation includes a cycle in which surplus-value is made through capital, and capital produces more surplus-value.  In capitalism, the people who saved and invested lived in luxury, while the people who were lazy and did not work lived in poverty; therefore, the rich became richer and the poor became poorer.  Moreover, there were two types of people categorized, the intelligent people and the lazy people.  The intelligent people accumulated their capital, they were owners of money and means of production, and they were eager to increase their values.  The lazy people did not work hard and did not invest; they were sellers of their own labour-power and spent their substance.  Those who labour live in poverty while those who don’t live in prosper.  Labour has nothing to sell but itself; the most significant condition of capitalism is to dispose the worker.  Marx states that the starting point of the development that gave rise to the wage-labourer as well as to the capitalist, was the servitude of the labourer. The labourer was subjective to their master; they did not take pleasure in freedom. 

 Nevertheless, for capitalism to occur there has to be an initial capital, the initial investment for capital to accumulate.  This is a process that transforms the social means of substance and production into capital and at the same time transforms producers into wage-labourers.  Primitive accumulation is the process of divorcing the producer from the means of production; it forms the pre-historic stages of capital and corresponding mode of production.  Capitalism is interested in private property; the relationship between the people who own private property and the people who don’t, with those who control the means of production and the labourers.  One key theme in accumulating capital would be producing more than needed; therefore, accumulation occurs using the surplus goods.  Primitive accumulation is an action which reflected in the prosper of capitalism; it was the most prominent motive that used force to exert wealth and power and lead to further exploitation of the labourers.    

 Furthermore, Marx completed The Communist Manifesto with Frederick Engels.  It was one of the most influential political documents ever written.  They believed that eventually, capitalism will collapse in the way as previous economic systems have.  Also, that the social relations of production will become obstacle to the continued development of the means of production and the result would be an epidemic of over-production.  The manifesto was aimed to guide the working class and its future because the workers were being exploited under capitalism.  Marx stated that the wage system should be abolished and that the workers should fight for higher wages; he wanted a society with equality where humans can maximize their capabilities.  Marx’s theory incorporates the observation that the capitalist minority owns the means of production while the majority owns only its labour-power, its capacity to labour, which it must sell to the capitalists in order to obtain the necessaries of life.  the majority of people are exploited labourers who work simply to endure a life of constant struggle for survival while the minority of people own the means of production and are profiting from the surplus-value and gaining capital.  This leads to the proceeding gap between the worker and the capitalist.  In Marx’s view, the struggle in the workplace which includes the length of the working day, the intensity of work, the working conditions, the introduction of new machinery, and the work discipline should be abolished.

 Max Weber’s Point Of View

Weber wrote The Protestant Ethic which is one of the most influential sociology books ever written.  This book describes Weber’s two intellectual subjects which include the rationalizing tendencies so prevalent in Western society and the role of ideas in shaping them.  Weber argues that a religious belief system intended to explain the path to external salvation stimulated a material world in which material goods have gained an increasing and finally an inexorable power over the lives of men as at no previous period in history.  This explains that Weber believes religious belief systems reveal a meaning attempting to explain the existing suffering and evil in the world.  This demands that the followers serve as instruments of God in order to portray Weber’s view of the world, prominently including Protestantism and Calvinism.  Weber states that capitalism is motivated by the pursuit of profit; profit that will be renewed forever by the means of continuous enterprise.  This influence of gaining capital through the pursuit of profit encourages people to participate in work and accumulate wealth for investments.  The impulse to pursuit the gain of money, the greatest amount as possible has been common to all sorts and conditions of men at all times and in all countries of the earth.  This approach is focused on the influence of certain religious ideas on the development of an economic spirit of an economic system; connecting the modern economic life with the rational ethics of ascetic Protestantism.   

 In addition, Weber maintained that the orderly attitude of asceticism was essential to the rise and eventual dominance of Western capitalism.  The spirit of capitalism refers to labourers being dedicated to their work; working more to make more money and also workers being punctual, honest, and frugal people.  Benjamin Franklin advocates these themes in explaining the work ethic.  It is believed by Franklin that these virtues, being honesty, punctuality and frugality are useful to the individual and is inevitable for strict utilitarianism.  Therefore, if the worker proceeds with these virtues, the outcome will be very sufficient and rewarding and on the other hand, he who does not follow these norms will be eliminated from the economic scene as he who cannot or will not adapt will be without a job on the streets.  The spirit of capitalism indicates that money should not be spent on luxuries but rather saved and accumulated; increasing capital is the ultimate objective.  Moreover, Weber discuses the importance of calling in motivating individuals to pursue success; the individual’s salvation depended on the fulfilment of moral obligation to perform duties of his labour to the best of his abilities.  The calling serves as the basis in which individuals understand their life situations and determine their fate.  Individual’s actions are inspired by the desire to please God and ensure his grace, not to accumulate wealth as a means of purchasing goods.  Weber believes the calling had a major impact on the drastic growth of capitalism in the West.

 To Sum Up Marx And Weber’s Points

Overall, capitalism is an economic system and a profitable game which is concerned with producing and accumulating wealth.  It is a mode of production which rose from the decline of feudalism because of the expansion of trade and need to gain more capital.  A main reason capitalism spread was due to the desire of gaining wealth and power, which amplified the necessity for increasing the surplus value.  The decline of feudalism was due to the desire of gaining wealth and power by increasing rent and maximizing profit; however, this was not successful which led to the rise of capitalism.  Marx and Weber thoroughly display their views which are similar in the sense of people craving the gain and accumulating of wealth and how to pursue it.  Although, on the contrary, their theories differ because Marx is encouraged by accumulating wealth by investing for one’s personal prosperity, while Weber believes in gaining wealth and capital for the glory of God .  Capitalism is society’s current mode of production that consists of the enhancement of capital and wealth through efficiency and surplus value.


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