Industrial Revolution

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7 Dec 2010

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Industrial Revolution
o Britain; reading looks at precursor to industrial revolution
o Transformation from a futile economy to a market economy took
roughly 600 years from the 13th century to the 19th century; it
started with bands of itinerant traders
o It culminates in the industrial revolution
o Reading three ways for organizing the production of goods
Traditional economy Do it the exact same way it was done
historically; sons go into the same trades as their fathers;
trade gills organizations that govern the work of artisans;
we do things in the same way that theyve always been done;
you know it works because it worked in the previous
generation and the one before that; it functions because it’s
functioned before; this is a way of organizing an economy
that’s specifically resistant to change
Market economy
Command economy Central planning; Soviet Union for
example five year plans; bureaucrats make decisions about
production and distribution; once the plan is made, you stick
to it and it determines the scope of production, distribution
and consumption for five years
o Up until the 19th century, the production and distribution of goods
was organized primarily by tradition and command
o There was no separate economic sphere it was governed by the
social and political organization of life
o Article is telling about the gradual evolution of a field of economics;
the idea that economics, production and distribution should have its
own sphere of organization
o This is a big change from the pre-19th century to the 19th century
o One of the transformations that’s most relevant to consider is the
feudal system
o Feudal system is emblematic of the way that goods and services
were traded
o Feudal system needed to be overcome and undermined in order
to generate the possibility of the market; standing in the way of the
o Feudal system is a system of hierarchy; inherited privilege and
social relations that is based on historical obligations
o Feudal system is static and rigid; lords ruled over the manner and
the serfs attached to the manner; the lord owed protection to the
o They were tied to a piece of land and to a particular lord for
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o What this is demonstrating is that the relationship between lords
and serfs was one of social obligation; it wasnt primarily an
economic interaction; they were socially obliged to be in a
relationship of dependency on one other
Feudal System
o Labor is not a commodity
Serfs could not move; could not sell their labor and they
didnt receive wages in return for their labor
They werent able to alienate their labor, to sell their labors,
so it was not a commodity; it wasnt something that they
could exchange
o Land is not a commodity
Social context; it was where people lived, where they grew
their food, where their families with
It was a piece of territory that they were attached to socially
It was your land, you lived there it was not a source of
o Property is not a commodity
It wasnt that people didnt accumulate wealth, but wealth
was spent on jewels and other things that didnt have any
productive value; wealth was not turned into capital
Wealth was spend on jewels, spices, products, but it wasnt
invested as capital
o The transformation from the feudal system to the market system
involves thinking of all three of these things as commodities
o These are the main reasons that the breakdown of the feudal
system is an inevitable precondition of the rise of the market
o Specifically, how does this happen? How do we have the breakdown
of the feudal system?
o Before the 18th century, agriculture had been much the same across
Europe; manors used the open field system
o A share went to the lord, the rest was shared among the serfs;
subsistence farming at fairly low levels of productivity
o Manors also included tracts of land that were used in common by
the serfs “the commons”; owned by the lord of the manor but
they were open to common use; they were commonly available and
everybody was able to use them for whatever they needed them for
o Agricultural innovation would change the entire system that existed
for thousands of years
o The enclosure process was slow and irregular; it started in the 13th
century and it was not complete until the 19th century
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o Enclosures the privatization of common land; the lord took that
land back that had been used in common by everybody in the
o The lord turns the commons to productive use and he transforms
the open fields into private property
o The enclosure movement therefore is the story of the
commoditization of land; the transformation of land from a
birthright to a productive unit; a unit of economic production; a
transformation in the meaning that is attached to land
o The enclosures were legalized and enforced; lords start to close this
land by force but the state gets involved through a series of
government acts in the 18th century
o As it’s happening slowly and at this local level, people fight back
and as theyre fighting back, the lords enlist the support of
government to come in on the side of the lords to allow them to
privatize their land
o This fight between the serfs and the lords takes place for about a
century; this conflict back and forth over what is finally going to
happen with the land finally culminates in the General Enclosures
Act of 1801
o Land has to be commoditized as a precondition of the Industrial
Revolution and of the transformation to a market economy
o This doesnt happen through the market alone; it’s not the unseen
hand working here it’s the government stepping in and passing
these laws, most important the General Enclosures Act; the
government steps in on the side of the lords of the manor
o Why do we have this transformation? Why is it that the lords are
perfectly satisfied to live with this agricultural system for centuries
and centuries and then eventually change their mind and decide to
o There wasnt a great deal you could do with surplus up until a
certain point
o There were a number of inventions and innovations that made land
more productive in this period (in the 1700s); it was because land
became more productive that it was concentrated in the hands of a
few and that in turns made it possible for those people to invest,
making it more productive
o Invention and the Mechanization of Agriculture
Seed Drill
Threshing Machine
Rotherman Plough
Steam-driven engine
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