Marxism And Economics 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.12England’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.