- What was the historic transformation, or change over time, that the author is describing in the reading?…
It is often presumed that the progression of our current state of economy, -Free market Capitalism-, has been stagnant throughout modern history, with the trading systems of the Old World being the foundation of Capitalism itself. The concept of Capitalism has always been prevalent in much of the world’s past economies and societies, with profit being a main source of motivation for the seemingly unwavering ambitions of the nations of the Old World, however, it must be noted that Capitalism, -as done so in James Fulcher’s’ “Capitalism: A Very Short Introduction”-, and all that it entails has been shaped over time to become what it is now;”…the investment of money in the expectation of making a profit [or capital]” (Fulcher 2), as it has had differing phases and/or forms that has been accommodated to the time and place in which it was being practiced in. Fulcher throughout the text, implies this.
The earliest form of Capitalism, Merchant Capitalism, -as indicated by Fulcher- was the accumulation of profits through trading systems. It occurred within the 17th century in Europe. With it, travel and the means to travel were necessary for this kind of Capitalism to take place. And thus, expeditions involving the movement of large cargo ships and crews led by nationally representative trading companies that were “controlled and administered” by rich merchants were launched to help exchange and transport goods between various European, Asian and African countries. These expeditions despite being successful and efficient in their tasks, were not exempt from risk. An example of this is the expeditions led by the East India Company of England in 1601-1608, where,-after a few successes were accomplished in acquiring spices from the East Indies for trade-, some of the ships that were sent on these ventures such as, Susan, Hector and Ascension were either found ” …lost at sea…with most of [their] crew found dead [or]…wrecked… [which ultimately led to] the investors [people who funded the expeditions] in this expedition [to lose] all their capital.”(Fulcher 1). Merchant Capitalism given all the risks that occurred under it, continued to serve as the economic system many of the Old World followed until the establishment and integration of the New World and the various kinds of products it had to offer into the international economy, which in a century or so later, following the 17th, brought about Industrialization and Capitalist Production.
Capitalist Production has been donned as more significant to the overall establishment of our modern day Capitalism than other forms of Capitalism themselves because Capitalist Production, as Fulcher implies, “…depends on the exploitation of wage labour, which also fuels the consumption of the goods and services produced by capitalist enterprises.”(Fulcher 18). Capitalist Production which sought out labor as a form of product in contrast to the more traditional kinds of product to the greater scale of the economy, is what eventually led to Financial Capitalism.
Financial Capitalism, -the obtaining of money profits through financial operations or systems-, when involving risk, unlike it’s predecessor, Merchant Capitalism and although still possible and impactful, risk, weighs differently and less so.This is possible through, as Fulcher describes as “Speculation,…[which] occurs when something is bought in the expectation of selling it, without increasing its value by processing it in some way, at a higher price in the future…it is…a way of avoiding risk.” (Fulcher 17). Financial Capitalism, given that it was created in the late 19th century, in all its more modern methods and techniques like the stock market and banking, is more reflective of and influential towards our current form of Free Market Capitalism.
Fulcher makes note that Capitalism through all of its phases and gradual changes was and still is transformative as markets, products and the means to invest money into them for profit will always be changing.