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What is the Relationship between Capitalism and Modernity? - University Paper

EssayChat / Jul 16, 2018

Modernity and capitalism have over the decades been looked at from various angles, many however agree that the two go hand in hand. Capitalism is a social system that bases its core principles on fundamentals such as individual rights when it comes to the political front. Legally, the system upholds objective laws and not a single man's authoritarian rule. Economically, capitalism is the mother of free markets, giving it a special place within the realms of economics since it doesn't limit a nation, a company or an individual from amassing as much wealth as possible. All these can't however be possible without modernity. The relationship between the two social structures is complementary. Without modernity, channels of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services would be nearly non-existent in a capitalistic world, a matter that would change the social system's overview and mode of operation.

Vincent de Gournay, a French Physiocrat, was amongst the first 18th century thinkers to hail capitalism and modernity as a workable political and social system. He is the one who coined the term laissez-faire, which literary means freedom, in 1750s. In his works, he notes that he adopted the term from François Quesnay's write-ups besides explaining that the social structural philosophy was practiced in ancient China where it was known as wu wei. According to the pro laissez-faire personalities such as Gournay, capitalism is one of the best means of social governance as modernity and its dynamisms is the fuel that keeps it going, hence its vibrant and dynamic nature.

Tracing Laissez-Faire Back to Its Roots

Capitalism Paper MoneyModernizing an economy or a political governance system isn't something that's unique to the 21st century. Modernity is a concept that has for this reason taken various forms and shapes with regard to socio-economic adjustments which occurred in different eras. During the Tang, Han and the Ming dynasties in China, for example, economic scholars often sprout up arguments that contradicted the government's control over prices through monopolistic tendencies, pushing China's economy toward reforms that gave birth to laissez-faire as a capitalistic ideal. The economic module was effected and it remained in place until the Manch Quing Dynasty, which reinstated state control over essential commodities, took charge of the country. Eighteenth century European scholars such as Gournay believed that this was a step back in the Chinese history of modernization since it stopped the country from developing a vibrant capitalistic system (Omics International).

Modernity has always been associated with personal success through accumulation of wealth. Gournay and his band of physiocrats danced to the tune of modernity and capitalism well because they were wealthy merchants. He noted that the only way that the government can have a modern society in which everyone is a winner, is by allowing the laws of nature to drive economics. These sentiments were widespread and strong at the time hence, come 1754, King Louis XV decided to listen to François Quesnay and Turgot, Baron de l'Aulne. On the 17th of September the king abolished state control and instated laissez-faire as the economic system. Though the free trade system was evoked in 1770 after 10 years of success, the fathers of modern economics such as Adam Smith picked up the concept later on with an aim of modifying it to foster a more modern capitalistic society.

As modernity took root in a capitalistic environment and the European nations became richer following the expansion of Kingdoms such as the United Kingdom and the establishment of magazines such as The Economist, laissez-faire garnered popularity. Influential economic policy shapers of the time such as James Wilson noted in 1847, five years after the establishment of The Economist, that it's no man's business to feed another. This gave rise to the idea of individualism as a modern capitalistic concept. Capitalism therefore became an ultramodern legal fabric with principles that could be adjusted for the common good of the public but not an individual. The system's legal tools gave voice to the poor and the rich alike, giving rise to the fight for political and economic emancipation prospects such as the ones that ensued between Ireland and the U.K in 1846 as a result of Corn Laws that favored the landlords over the consumers and the farm workers.

The Relation between the Rise of Nation-States, Modernism and Capitalism

Civilization and evangelism led to the discovery of distant lands across the continents at the turn of the 19th century. Colonization subsequently became the modern way of expanding territorial rule and obtaining a global outlook of economic power for countries such the U.K, Belgium, Germany and Spain. The United States fought against colonization with the help of countries such as Netherlands, a matter that shaped modern capitalism by sparking corporation between allied countries. Many of the states that were under colonial rule took up the model and united in arms against their oppressors in the bid to attain self-rule. As independence dawned in various parts of Africa, South America and the Far East, new nation-states were born and they had the liberty to choose between capitalism and other forms of governance such as Italy's Feudalism or Russia's communistic styles.

The industrial revolution's modern trends that were taking root in the West contributed toward the decolonization and the consolidations of individual-state systems between the mid-40s and the mid-70s with the hope that the new model would lead to a politico-economic capitalistic outlook that promotes global democracy, setting ground for globalization as its known today. The idealistic modern assumption at the time hinged on the fact that new states were homogeneous units that were in turn part of the wider international community under which, free trade and a wider web of capitalistic slivers of development could be molded into a superior capitalistic world (Berger 1). Some states however wanted to maintain political dominance. They used their wealth, power and influence to craft policies that favored their interests, giving rise to members of a capitalistic world with unequal share of the global economic pie.

The same scenario became apparent at the social level. As the monetary gap between nations grew bigger owing to industrial and scientific revelations, so did the gap between the rich and poor widen within social setups - creating class differences. In this instance, capitalism became modernity's driving force since technological and industrial advancements were attained by individuals, nations or regions depending on their capacity to sponsor research projects. The system has subsequently sparked high-end competition across the world with the onset of modern capitalistic endeavors that are geared toward market leadership and political superiority that's pegged on a nation's wealth.

Capitalistic Fault Lines

Modernity has, over the centuries, been shaped by socio-economic variables such population growth and the availability of raw materials. In the bid to be the leading provider of specific goods or services, for example, companies have been marred with scandals and under the table dealings which, have in return brought about the immoral aspects of capitalism. British economist John Maynard Keynes flaunted the system's immoral attributes when he, in 1926, noted that laissez-faire operates on doctrines that dependent on a reasoning pattern that's improper and deductive . To this extent Keynes held the notion that capitalism should run in tandem modernity, meaning that as matters unfold within the social and global context, it's significant to approach the economic philosophy bases on a case-by-case analysis of the unfolding events. Australian economist Friedrich Hayek shared the same sentiments with Keynes on the capitalistic framework that driven by laissez-faire when he stressed the need for a central baking system to curb the excess of capitalism whose control was quickly shifting into the hands of a few especially in nations where modernity and capitalism had transformed individuals into extremely wealthy personalities. People like Davos Rockefeller, Henry Ford and J.P Morgan became wealthy enough to sponsor government projects. Capitalism and the quest for greater heights of modernity consequently gave birth to philosophies such as the "American Dream."

The whim to climb to the top and live the American dream has given rise to a new breed of criminals (Bradley). Modern times have subsequently transformed capitalism into a system that's widely perceived as unjust and prone to corrupt practices as everyone fights for his own success and not that of a society or of a country as it's the case under communist countries. Though laissez-faire is seen as a capitalistic trend that's fueled by modernity, there are instances when modern trends such as technology has pulled it backwards other than giving it a forward shove. With the advent of computers, for instance, modernity and capitalistic ideologies such as free markets gave the big corporations leeway to rise to the top and to create monopolistic markets which they guarded against all sorts of competition with the help of their financial might and influence.

The government is often forced to toe the line that's drawn by the big business entities which have sprung up as a result of modernity and capitalism because the political structures also rely on the capitalistic enterprises to thrive. Governments, for instance, need funds in terms of taxes and they must also appear to be protecting the common citizen's employment and other rights that constitute democracy as part of the modern capitalistic system. As a result of these, governments that support capitalism and modernity are often forced to bailout or to subsidize industrial outfits using the taxpayers' money when they get into problems as a result of managerial or global market turmoil.

The Sustainability Equation

Capitalism and modernity have created a global commodity market in which perfectionism is a norm. Nearly everyone strives to be modern by having either the latest car, watch, designer outfit or electronic gadgets such as phones and computers. Economists argue that the system is subsequently acquiring materials from the Mother Nature at pace that makes the sustainability of modern capitalism a complex equation. Environmental pollution and degradation has, for example, raised questions about the nature of modernity and its push for everyone to own as much as they can without conducting a proper cost benefit analysis (Porter 5). Pundits note that the cost of extracting gold using highly potent chemicals such as cyanide isn't worth the gold prices in the market. If environmental degradation were to be factored into every commodity's shelf-price it will be easier to note that capitalism is making is giving the people the impetus to live beyond their actual means. The system is therefore crafted as though it sustains the Mother Nature and not the other way round, a matter that has led to global warming and disasters that can be directly attributed to climate change such as tsunamis, extensive drought and typhoons. In the phase of these, modernity appears to be taking a different shape with the push for renewable energy sources and electric cars, all of which are being designed and engineered with an aim of progressing the capitalism.

Works Cited

Archibald, Priscilla. Imagining Modernity in the Andes. Rowman and Littlefield. 2015. Lewisburg, Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press, Print.

Berger, Mark. The nation-state and the challenge of global capitalism. Carfax Publishing Company.

Bolivar Echeverria. Modernity and Capitalism.

Bradley Robert. The Two Faces of Capitalism. The Atlas Society.

House, Peter W, and Roger D. Shull. The Practice of Policy Analysis: Forty Years of Art & Technology. Washington, DC: Compass Press, 1991. Print.

Omics International. Laissez-faire. Conferences OMICS Publishing Group. 2014.

Porter Theodore. The Rise of Cost-Benefit Rationality as Solution to a Political Problem of Distrust. Web.

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