Sunday, April 6, 2008

Capitalism and Socialism

While Napoleon is still wreaking havoc in Europe, a development is noted by History 5, allowing England to enter the Industrial Revolution. How this is triggered by an agricultural revolution has already been reported in my review of last year's lecture. In this review, taking this lecture about the Industrial Revolution (audio, video) together with Capitalism and its Critics (audio, video) , I would like to mark another point that was taken from these lectures: with Industrial Revolution comes the rise of Capitalism, but simultaneously there is the critique. I was not sufficiently aware of that and sort of expected it to start with or around Karl Marx. Quod non.

Counter movements spring up immediately. While labor is being mechanized, people become worried and vandals named Luddites roamed the country demolishing machinery. Where this protest may seem reactionary and indicating the impossible yearning for days past, it is harder to label Charles Dickens's critique in his work 'Hard Times' (obligatory reading for the students of History 5) as such. His work is too complete as a social critique within a description of what goes on.

The French economist Sismondi tries his hand on the theoretical level, opposing the standing advocates in the field: Ricardo, Mill and Smith. In practice there are people like Robert Owen and Charles Fournier who try to establish societies that flourish without the use of capitalist principles. Only then we run into Karl Marx.

This is what I find so particularly compelling in this podcast; the lectures deliver a historical understanding. Whatever I thought I already knew and had fairly well understood is challenged and fine-tuned. This goes just as much for historical events and eras I am rather familiar with as for those of which I have a more sketchy knowledge.

More History 5:
Enlightenment and French Revolution,
Absolutism and Science,
Witches, plague, war and Hobbes,
Europe and 1492.

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