A History And Guide To Capitalism: Understanding Its 200-Year Influence On Humanity
There is no doubt that capitalism is a system that has had a great impact on our society today.
It has shaped the way we live, think, and earn our incomes – but do we really understand how it works?
In this book summary of Capitalism, you’ll get to dive into the inner workings and history of our modern capitalist society.
You’ll find out how capitalists use money to make more money, why refugees helped capitalism take off in England and what the subprime mortgage crisis is.
You’ll also get a better understanding of how these larger events impacted humanity around the world – from the financial crisis of 2007-2008 all the way to globalization!
By learning about (the often negative) influence of big capital competition, you can even start to predict how capitalism can affect us in the future.
The Principles Of Capitalism: Investment, Wage Labor, Consumption And Markets
Capitalism is a socioeconomic system where money is used to make more money.
Under this system, individuals and corporations capitalize on wealth by investing and then making a profit from it.
Those who use their money in this way are capitalists and the excess money made out of this process is called profit.
Capital can be anything that can be turned into money, such as buying and selling homes or using it as collateral for a mortgage.
To produce goods, wage labor is essential as it fuels both production and consumption under capitalism – something that was not present before capitalist economies.
Additionally, capitalist markets allow for the purchase and sale of practically anything so long as there is demand for it.
This generates competition between capitalists seeking to maximize profits which generally means driving down costs through reducing workers’ wages or creating machines that can replace human labor The overall goal of capitalists is to turn their initial investments into profits larger than they had when they started.
The Roots Of Capitalism Go Back To Medieval Europe: Fragmentation, Feudalism, Multi-State Structures, And Financial Innovations All Played A Role
It is clear that the roots of capitalism can be traced back to medieval Europe, particularly with regards to England.
The political fragmentation in medieval Europe allowed for the development of key features of capitalism such as markets and wage labor not seen in other societies.
This included the surpluses feudal peasants had to pay their lord being replaced by payments of money and flexible economic producers, who were able to make transitions to capitalism much easier.
The multi-state structure of Europe also played a key role in introducing new financial innovations from refugees escaping the Counter-Reformation and entrepreneurs looking for more opportunity in various regions, which would later become integral parts of capitalism.
In particular, 16th century Antwerp created a large pool of investors which laid out the foundation for modern corporations while England saw great success in coal mining and small-scale production with wage labor becoming increasingly widespread.
Altogether, these conditions set the stage for 19th century England to become fully developed under capitalism and its reign still exists today.
The Rise And Fall Of State-Managed Capitalism – How The Unregulated Market Of The Industrial Revolution Was Checked And Rebalanced In Britain
At the start of the Industrial Revolution, the capitalist class took advantage of a complete lack of regulation in order to pursue their own ventures and accumulate immense wealth.
This unregulated environment went hand-in-hand with liberal philosophy, which celebrated freedom from state interference.
As a result, production and consumption rocketed skywards without any checks or balances in place.
However, these unregulated markets soon had an adverse effect on workers’ lives.
For example, wages were severely depressed and prices rose rapidly.
To make matters worse, machine breaking by desperate workers became commonplace and led to strikes and public disorder.
It wasn’t long before labor unions began to gain strength and demanded rights for their members, pushing back against unregulated capitalism’s dehumanizing impact on working people’s lives.
In response to this rise in organized labor movements, the state was forced to intervene with more market regulation.
The Demise Of Managed Capitalism And The Rise Of Neoliberalism
The 1980s marked a major turning point in the history of capitalism.
With public opinion beginning to favor an emphasis on individuals rather than collectivism, and with international competition becoming increasingly fierce, governments had to take action or face electoral defeat.
One response was the rise of neoliberalism, or “remarketized” capitalism, which had been pioneered by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
She set about dismantling the managed form of capitalism that dominated the 1970s–reducing union rights, privatizing state-run companies and implementing market forces through private financing systems for hospital construction, for example.
Even Tony Blair’s Labour government of the 1990s and 2000s embraced Thatcher’s neoliberal philosophy.
This new wave of remarketized capitalism allows for increased consumer choice and individual freedom; however, its devastating effect on public services means people are left vulnerable.
Without strong unions providing job security, laborers find it harder to protect themselves from exploitation; and as private entities start buying up public housing, rental costs fluctuate wildly due to ruthless market forces.
It Takes A Different Path: Understanding The Varied Effects Of Neoliberalism In The Uk, Sweden, And Us
While the neoliberal capitalist models in Sweden and the US both faced widespread remarketization during the 1970s, the respective paths that lead to it differed dramatically.
In Sweden, welfare programs were funded largely by high taxes and labor-employer relations were relatively healthy due to Social Democratic Party’s governance of Sweden from 1932 until 1976.
When these programs proven unviable with new international competition, they had to be cut while taxation decreased and financial sectors deregulated.
This resulted in a huge spike in inequality by 2011 compared to other OECD countries.
In America, remnants of a managed capitalism existed after Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation established large welfare programs alongside strong labor unions.
But as individualistic ideology took hold, Reagan by 1980s employed expansive tax cuts and deregulated or privatized industries such as air travel, railways, and telecommunications resulting in a return of inequality levels last seen on 1920s.
This ultimately set up conditions for financial crisis in 2007 still widely felt today.
Even though the trajectories leading up to the remarketization of their respective capitalist models varied significantly, its effects were similar for both Sweden and the US– highlighting how neoliberalism can coopt many existing systems despite local challenges or differences.
The 2007-2008 Global Financial Crisis And Subsequent Great Recession: How Financialization And Excessive Debt Set The Tables For Disaster
The 2007-2008 financial crisis was the result of a combination of factors which culminated in a perfect storm.
It began with remarketization policies which caused powerful capitalist economies such as the UK and US to shift away from traditional production to high-risk, speculative financial contracts on the stock market – commonly known as casino capitalism.
This led to increased international competition and proliferation of such contracts, without sufficient government oversight.
Furthermore, there was an excessive growth of debt due to easy credit – especially with regards to subprime mortgages – being sold off by big banks with the promise of hefty commissions.
These irresponsible practices drove up housing prices until it was no longer possible for many borrowers to pay back their loans.
The result of this bubble bursting set off a chain reaction worldwide that would push an already fragile global economy into an even worse position.
Ultimately, it was remarketization policies that led to this disaster on seemingly unimaginable scale.
Capitalism: Damaged But Unavoidable – Will It Survive Its Own Destruction?
The 2007-2008 financial crisis took the world by surprise and brought about far-reaching consequences.
It led to an examination of how economic policies can be better regulated and managed, in order to avoid similar crises in the future.
Interest rates were lowered after the crisis, which helped stimulate growth in some western countries; however, this has led to excessive borrowing from developing countries, like China, Brazil and Turkey, causing their debt-to-GDP ratios to soar beyond pre-crisis levels.
This poses the question of how future capitalist crises might be averted?
The answer is not a simple one as any new proposed regulations are met with fierce resistance by banking sectors due to lower potential profits.
With capitalism’s need for continuous growth further damaging climate change, it has become necessary for changes that profoundly affect all parts of society to be made.
In absence of a strong push coming from the left wing towards proposals for economic reformations that manage capitalism more responsibly, other solutions may have to be explored.
For instance, focusing on moving away from neoliberal capitalisms and returning to state-manufactured investments post World War II could provide more stability and help prevent further large scale crises in the future.
Furthermore, less neoliberalised Regions such as southern and south East Asia proved relatively resilient during The Great Recession, providing abundant examples on how to maximize socioeconomical benefits while avoiding severe declines.
Capitalism has been the dominant economic system in the world for centuries and continues to be so.
At its core, capitalism is based on an idea of investing money for a return with the goal of accumulating more wealth.
It requires a combination of wage labor, competitive markets, production and consumption processes to function and has spread all over the world from its initial roots in Europe.
In response to unregulated excesses caused by capitalism, governments worldwide had put in place policies and regulations that effectively managed these excesses up until the 1980s.
Recent events such as financial crisis of 2007-2008 however, have forced us to question our faith in such regulation efforts going forward.
In conclusion, only time will tell what the future holds for this capitalist system we are so used to today.