Everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious
In his seminal work ”
The Invention of Capitalism: Classical Political Economy and the Secret History of Primitive Accumulation”
takes us on a journey of discovery to the origins of classical theory to discover more about how people like Adam Smith were thinking.
The originators of classical political economy—Adam Smith, David Ricardo, James Steuart, and others—created a discourse that explained the logic, the origin, and, in many respects, the essential rightness of capitalism. But, in the great texts of that discourse, these writers downplayed a crucial requirement for capitalism’s creation: For it to succeed, peasants would have to abandon their self-sufficient lifestyle and go to work for wages in a factory. Why would they willingly do this?
The answer is they wouldn’t. And didn’t. Until forced to.
Classical Political Theory is very much Theory X – people are lazy and unproductive.
Classical theory works when you have people who are already separated – from themselves, from the earth and from each other.
Historically, we are seeing a neo-liberal revivial of the same double standards that the orginators of classical political theory skirted around.
Back in the 17 and 1800s, for Capitalism to succeed, peasants would have to abandon their self-sufficient lifestyle and go to work for wages in a factory. Why would they willingly do this? The answer is they wouldn’t unless they had their land taken away from them.
Following the second world war, Capitalism took on a more humanitarian stance. The entitlements and rights guaranteed by the post-war welfare state for example, can be understood as the institutionalisation in particular forms of social commons. Together with high growth policies, the implementation of full employment policies and the institutionalisation of productivity deals, the welfare state was set to accommodate people’s expectations after two world wars, the Soviet revolution, and a growing international union movement.
The global current neoliberal project can be seen as touting laissez fair whilst at the same time carrying on the tradition of depriving people of the means to self-sufficiency and promoting consumption of mass-produced goods. This insidious project targets the social commons created in the post war period. It is a a modern form of enclosure, dubbed by some as “new enclosures” – a practice Marx called “primitive accumulation”.
See the insightful comments from Yasha Levine
Look inside the book