Evolution Of Capitalism Essay

analytical Essay
864 words
864 words

Madhurim Gupta
Professor Alexander R. Galloway
Special Topics in Critical Theory: Marx
14 May 2014
Qs 3: A number of writers suggest that the capitalism of the middle to late twentieth century is markedly different from previous phases. How do they describe this particular iteration of the mode of production? What role, if any, do images, spectacle, ideology, machines, or computers play?
In his book, Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Fredric Jameson drawing from the work of another Marxist theoretician Ernest Mandel, divides capitalism into three distinct periods post “the ‘original’ industrial revolution of the later 18th century” [emphasis in original](Jameson 35). Closely linked to the improvement in the means of production, i.e. technological development, the three stages of evolution of capitalism according to Jameson and Mandel are: ‘Market or competitive capitalism’ driven by the steam motors introduced in 1848; ‘Monopoly capitalism’ backed by the huge corporations using electric and combustion motors at the turn of 19th century; and the nuclear and electronic-powered machinery of ‘late capitalism’ that comes to fore in the wake of World War II (Jameson 35-36). Adding nuance to this last phase of late capitalism, David Harvey suggests that late capitalism and its guiding economic logic- Fordism culminates post World War II, but is able to push through for another a decade or so till it falls into crisis during the recession of 1973 (Harvey 124). This crisis of Fordism leads to the development of a more robust strain of capitalism, sometimes called postindustrial or post-Fordist. Harvey refers to this new brand of capitalism as ‘flexible accumulation’ which is characterized by a new, more global and m...

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... both social spending programs and fiscal and monetary policies that sustained aggregate demand (Harvey 205-209).
A decade and half later, after World War II, newer technologies and electronic products that had been invented during the inter-war years blossomed under the nourishment of the demand-stimulating regulation of the Keynesian state. Not only that, thanks to the Bretton Woods agreement which was signed in 1944, the dollar got elevated to the position of world’s preferred reserve currency, and thereby ensured the firm ties between the US fiscal and monetary policy and the whole world’s economic development. International spread of Fordist-Keynesian model occurred within a particular frame of international politics- economic regulation and a geopolitical configuration, and United States dominated through a system of military alliances and power relations.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how fredric jameson divides capitalism into three distinct periods post the industrial revolution of the late 18th century.
  • Analyzes how they explore the evolution of the flexible accumulation-post modernist moment in history, which rose distinctly as a response to the fordist-modernist crisis.
  • Explains that marx and engels' theory of the crisis-tendencies of capitalism is useful when considering the multiple transitions that took place within capitalism in mid to late twentieth century.
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