Themes in American History: Capitalism, Slavery, Democracy

Blog Post #1 Fulcher (Capitalism)

This reading follows the idea of Capitalism and the different forms seen throughout history. Merchant Capitalism was the earliest form where profit was made from trading scarce products across long distances. One of the downsides of this was that it “required a heavy investment of capital in the expectation of large profits”(Fulcher 4). The second form was Capitalist production, which relied largely on wage labour to make profit. The third form of Capitalism mentioned in the reading is Industrial capitalism. It was similar to capitalist production but was a little more advanced. All of these had pros and cons but are still seen in our capitalist society. Today, the whole economy has become dependent on investment of capital to prosper, we don’t just rely on trade, but production as well.

Before I didn’t really understand what was involved when it came to capitalism. I knew what it entailed yet couldn’t grasp the concept and connect it to the issues we face in our economy today. This reading gave me more insight on it and shed light to the injustices that were seen back then and actually still prevalent now. For example, The exploitation of workers in the cotton mill company around 1839. By that time the industry had around 1,815 mills, which would later increase even more. This meant that they would need a lot of workers to manage the machines and because they needed a heavy amount of profit, the workers had to operate day and night. Most of the labour was “cheap child labour and at times nearly half of those employed were under the age of 16″(Fulcher 5). It progressively got worse when the ages began to start lower to 7 year olds working from 6:00 am to 7:30 pm. Although wage labour is considered “free”, it’s also “unfree” in a sense because when one lives in a capitalist society, it’s almost impossible to survive without paid work. Not to mention in early capitalist society there were very little job opportunities available which may have led to employer manipulation and in this case inhumane acts like child labour. We don’t see child labour today but there are still workers being paid way less than they should for the long shifts they take to make capital for large companies ¬†or institutions. My new attained knowledge on capitalism really changed the way I viewed this part of American history because I feel it’s wrong to mainly depend of wage labour for our economy to flourish. New ways should be found instead of making people think paid work is the only way to ¬†provide for themselves and their families.

One thought on “Blog Post #1 Fulcher (Capitalism)”

  1. Good post. However; the three types or phases Fulcher describes are Merchant Capitalism, Industrial Capitalism (synonymous with “Capitalist Production”), and Financial Capitalism. If Merchant Capitalism was defined by long-distance trade and a “consumer revolution,” Industrial Capitalism by a revolution in production (machines and wage laborers), and Financial Capitalism by innovations in banking and the manipulation of stocks and numbers. Admittedly, these labels merely represent Fulcher’s interpretation of what has changed over time, not hard-and-fast categories.

    You raise an interesting point at the end, although it’s getting ahead of ourselves. Recently, some people have begun to point out that the current system, wherein most people work for other people for wages or salary, may be unsustainable, as technology replaces human labor or makes obsolete in more and more occupations. The pandemic, meanwhile, has shown that many white collar jobs can be done remotely, while blue collar and service industry workers are exposed to greater risks because of the nature of their professions. Obviously there’s no easy answer, but I’m glad this reading has given you a foundation to begin thinking about these very complicated questions.

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