Development of Capitalism

Date: Dec 5, 2019
Category: Informative

The current work provides the comparison and the explanation of the ideas of Karl Marx and Max Weber concerning the formation and reflection of capitalism. This essay shows that the description of the development of this economic system by two scientists have numerous similarities and differences which form the understanding of its nature, causes and consequences. The major similarities of their ideas are reflected in the consideration of such factors as the characteristics and interrelationships of middle and the lower classes, religion, and the alientation of the labor. Both scientists outlined that the formation of capitalism lies in the interrelations between various social groups.  

Karl Marx noted that the very nature of the appearance of owners of the means of production and laborers increases the gap between these two classes. This separates the laborers and their objects of labor and sharpens the alientation, because people stopped controlling the outcomes of their work and associate themselves with these outcomes. In this context, the additional attention should be paid to Marx’s understanding of the transition of “class in itself” to “class for itself” that expresses the change of relation to production. The first term concerns to group of people who have relation to the means of production. The second term relates organized group of people who are in active pursuit of their own interests. This transition and the rise of capitalism started from the moment when “products that earlier had only “use-value” now acquired “exchange-value” as well”.


The capitalism did not develop in the primitive communities, where the social relations in material life were correspondingly narrow (primitive cultivation of land and the craft type of industry). The preparatory stage of formation of capitalism took place at the 13th – 14th century when the natural economy was replaced by exchange economy. It occurred because of the interaction of two different “commodity processors”. The first type of commodity processor was represented by owners of means of production. These people increase their values by purchasing of labor of the second type of processor. The second type of processors was represented by free laborers who were separated from means of production and were obliged to sell their labor for surviving. 

In course of time the large territories were grouped into feudal kingdoms “for the landed nobility as foe the towns”. It happened in the end of the 14th century in England, when the power of monarchy increased and “it was not difficult for the Crown to break up feudal retainers and to confiscate their estates”. In the same time more powerful feudal who were close to Crown usurpated common lands. The great amount of yeomen and peasants were driven from the soil. 

The transition to the capitalism was also facilitated by the economy, especially by the rise of prosperity of wool manufacturing and the increasing of price of wool in the UK. This leads to the situation when the arable lends were used for sheepwalks, i.e. “humans were displaced by sheep”. Consequently, the means of production of laborers became the capital of feudal; and the production previously manufactured or produced by laborers became the means of subsistence. Labor became to be considered as commodity that is influenced by market forces. The further industrial development and division leads to the alientation of the worker from his production and creative powers. In the same time, the classification and grouping of workers leads to the raise of the productivity of manufacturing. The later stage of capitalism development is reflected in the machine production which increased the productivity (and lead to the concentration of capital) but decreased the use of creative powers of laborers, and lead to the loosing of control of worker over manufacturing and production. Hence, laborers were obliged to work more for increasing their productivity.  Karl Marx wrote that “the expansion of productive forces under capitalism was accompanied by growing alientation”. Hence, workers suffered from deterioration: lowering of their power over the produced goods, unclaimed creativity, lowering of their prosperity and loss of freedom and oppression by first type of commodity processors. Marx concluded that “man, as worker has become something less than human, because he is separated from his potential human qualities”. That means that the laborer worked only for the satisfaction of his immediate physical needs. 

Max Weber supported this idea and noted that centralization of power over means of production gave rise to the development of capitalism. In the same time, holding of the power in hands of unofficial labor subordinates eliminates such alientation, because “land was not unconditionally or permanently sold; rather the sib always retained the right to repurchase”. This happened because the central government eliminated the increase of power of officials. They were prevented to become powerful by the central government. 

Karl Marx and Max Weber paid the considerable attention to the role of religion in the formation of human behaviors and perceptions of their life which lead to the development of capitalism. For example, according to Karl Marx, religion is considered to be the product of social alientation in the Eastern countries because it reflects the oppression of one group of people by other group of people and creates the illusion of happiness, when the real powers of humanity are attributed to super creatures: “it is the domination, oppression, and exploitation of man by man that has given rise to religion”. Max Weber agreed with the idea of the considerable role of religion and the existing understandings concerning the values and rationalization of the life. However, this scientist considers the religion as one of the causes formation or non-formation of capitalism. For example, religion in India was considered as one of the factors which prevented the formation of capitalism, “because there was no way of quantifying or weighting the elements”. Also, he noted that “religious atmosphere…have determined the choice of occupation, and through it the professional career”, i.e. whether the person will become a mastered craftsmen or the owner of the factory. 

Karl Marx in his works made the emphasis on the conditions which oblige laborers to sell their labor and to sharpen the feeling of alientation and the necessity of coverage of animal needs. When Max Weber made more stress on the influence of the following factors on the development of capitalism: existence of kinship bonds, the distinct features of big cities and small villages and military competition between neighboring states, and rationalization of various sides of social life.

In conclusion, it should be noted that the current work provides the description of the understandings of formation and reflection of development of capitalism developed by Karl Marx and Max Weber. Both scientists agree that this economic system is influenced by such factors as dividing of the society on classes because of alientation of means of production from laborers to the owners of manufacturing facilities. Marx and Weber agreed that religious affiliation plays the great role in the formation and support of class stratification, because it establishes the set of values and principles. In the same time, Weber made stress on the fact that lowering of competition between states or regions and establishment of kinship binds can lead to non-development of capitalism; when Marx paid attention to reflection of capitalism in the form of sharp necessity of laborer to work only for the satisfaction of his animal needs instead of reflection creativity and personal power.