Essay: Human Society -- Economic

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[. . .] " He was speaking of the way the majority lived during 16th and 17th century Europe in which for 90% of the population, life was a continual struggle. Cities were crowded, noisy, and filthy; night soil was thrown out onto the streets, horse offal was everywhere, fly ridden and rotten meat as well as human and animal odor permeated the area. There was no regular medical care, in fact most people had few teeth left by age of 30; pox, disease and deformity were rampant. Life expectancy was under 40, hygiene often non-existent, and warfare to support the monarchy and upper 1/2% of the population was common (Cockayne; Warfare in the 1700s).

Thus, for Hobbes, the view of mankind was not pleasant. The nasty, brutish and short way of life then, was his view of humanity -- and one he sought, through metaphysics and philosophy, to find a way for the State to control and help the "unwashed" masses move forward. Instead, humans must escape this very brutish state of war and agree to live within a social contract and establish a just and civil society. For Hobbes, individuals must be a larger population beneath authority, and those individuals must, by the very nature of the perpetuation of the species, cede all rights and control over to that authority. It is also well within the natural rule of law that there might be abuses of authority, and that even though rebellion might be expected, it is up to the individual to maintain that the State is the grand master and the individual but the pieces on the chessboard. The State, therefore, must control military, civil, judicial and even ecclesiastical powers (Martinich). There were four real types of power for Hobbes, natural power arriving from God, but humanity needing control. Instrumental power, or the acquisition of more power ("The value or worth of a man is, as of all other things, his Price; that is to say, so much as would be given for the use of his power"), relative power that is only compared to others, and the balance of ceding power to the state (the Leviathan) as both protection of the self and the use of the state as the predominant force of political power:

[We note] that a man be willing when others are so too, as farre-forth as for Peace and defense of himself he shall think it necessary, to lay down the right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself (Hobbes).

Marx -- Marx viewed history as one of a struggle for power -- a continuous class struggle. This struggle was apparent in that the ancient world (slavery) gave way to feudalism, capitalism replaced feudalism, and eventually, the historical dialectic would allow the workers to overthrow the bourgeoisie and form a stateless, classless society called pure communism. Historical materialism says society is determined by the material conditions at any given time:

At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or - this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms - with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure (Marx and Engels, The marx-Engels Reader).

Marx thus saw economics in the form of the contrast between capitalism and socialism as the very basis for the structure of the modern state. Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to increasing accumulation and reinvestment of profits. Over time (history) capitalism has progressed through several stages, arriving after the Industrial Revolution at a more mature state of exploitation. However, capitalism tends to incorporate a certain "way of thinking," driven by greed, the search for ever increasing profits, worldwide expansion, and internal development. Starting from the earliest origins of capitalism, only societies with the capabilities and the appropriate mindset could flourish amidst this period of economic, social, and religious dispersion.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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