Thursday, December 06, 2007

Adam Smith Right On the Subsistence Ages of Mankind

An interesting exchange on Adam Smith and Karl Marx on a Comic Book forum, Comic Book Resources (here):

From ‘Player Zero’:

Adam Smith vs. Karl Marx
Actually if anything Marxism as he originally intended is actually much closer to realization than it has been ever before, the development of nations in the EU and Japan as well as that of China, India and Russia are actually evidence of this.

Unlike Maoism, Stalinism or Lenninism, Marx didn't advocate the immediate transferrance to communism but predicted an eventual and slow development towards communism, he specified that societies have a specific line of development: First comes feudalism where societies are run with agrarian economics and ruled over by kings and aristocrats, then comes capitalism with the development towards a manufactoring/industrial economy with the rise of the merchant class and secular governments, then comes socialism where social welfare programs and recognition on the importance of the working class, and then comes communism where the means of production becomes so advanced that everyone's economic needs are fulfilled

A reply from ‘Phrozen

“Except there was a lot of stuff before Fuedalism.

Fuedalism is not an economic system, its a government system. One that Marx didn't really understand that well or the actual history of well the world

Phrozen’ is right on the misuses of feudalism as a stage in the progression to socialism or capitalism in the Marxist litany.

Feudalism was a political regime that had economic features in land titles; it was not a mode of subsistence. It fitted Karl Marx’s political critique of capitalism but was deficient as a discriminator between modes of production.

Adam Smith’s theory of the ‘ages of mankind’ was a consistent discriminator between modes of subsistence.

He taught at Glasgow University the four-ages theory of the modes of subsistence:

1st the age of hunter-gatherers (‘rude society’; no property; equality of ‘poverty’; short life spans; violent social relations; bounties of nature as fee goods; labour as perfect rights; no laws, except the laws of nature);

2nd age of shepherds (appearance of limited property; early inequalities; mobility of territorial claims; limited civil government and laws; armed militas);

3rd age of farming (property established; civil government and laws; violent defence of property against the poor and the avarice of the rich; settled abodes; stone-based towns and public buildings; militias and standing armies);

4th age of commerce (civil government; laws and justice; state monopoly of violence; progress towards liberty; politics; end of ‘Malthusian traps’; rising per capita incomes with mechanisation, technologies, science and innovation; inequalities growth; appearance of middle-class; colonies; jealousy of trade).

Smith’s ages were subsistence based, compatible with various governmental forms (hordes; tyrannies; agrarian despotism; absolute monarchies, constitutional monarchies, secular democracies).

Feudalism did not alter the age of agriculture - food grew biologically the same in pre-feudal societies (‘allodial’ war lords;) as it did under feudal lords; limited tenancies; yeoman farming; agribusiness; communist communes, and so on.

His schema was a richer stratification of modes of subsistence, which also included possibilities of reversion from one mode to another (after the fall of Rome, Western Europe reverted to barbarism; stone-age societies reverted to wooden tools, as in Tasmania; capitalist commercial societies could revert to farming). See Book III Wealth Of Nations.

Phrozen’ is absolutely right!


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