Political Economy: Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom

Chapter four of Ha-Joon Chang’s Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom concentrates on the economy. More specifically it concentrates on the schools of thought used to explain the economy and the theories around which these schools are built. The school that really grabbed my attention was the one based around the works of philosopher and economist, Karl Marx.

So what did I learn?

Marxian economics focuses on the labour theory of value, a theory adopted from the classical school of thought. The theories expressed in Marxian economics focus on the roles played by labour and the workforce  in the further development of the economy.  Unlike the Classical school, who viewed the workforce as simple beings that could barely control their biological urges (demand for work grows, wages rise and the workforce have more children which in turn causes wages to plummet) and would lead miserable lives if they failed to control these urges but as a driving force in economic change throughout history.

Marx believed that the working class were not powerless but the gravediggers of capitalism whose strength came from their experience as part of the work force. The working class would be able to topple capitalism when the time comes which would lead the way for socialism.

Part of the theory of Marxian economics states that societies evolve over a series of historical stages based on their modes of production: primitive communism, antiquarian mode of production (ancient Roman and Greek slavery), feudalism (medieval Europe; land owners charging rent and labour from semi-slaves), capitalism and finally communism.

The Marxist School however, was fatally flawed. Namely in its prediction that capitalism will collapse under it’s own weight which simply hasn’t happened. Unlike Marx’s theory capitalism has proven its ability as an economic structure to reform itself when problems arise. Additionally, communism came to prominence in countries where capitalism was hardly developed; a direct contradiction to Marx’s theory that capitalism would reach it’s developmental peak then collapse under it’s own weight.

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