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A brief history of Capitalism, from antiquity to the present - Essay Example

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Capitalism refers to an economic system where the means of production and distribution are owned privately or corporately by a dominant section in the society; factors such as free markets, open competition, profit motive, private ownership characterize the capitalistic form of…
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A brief history of Capitalism, from antiquity to the present
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Download file to see previous pages re the history of capitalism from antiquity to the present; in doing so the paper deals separately with the Ancient, Medieval, and Modern forms of capitalism.
Ancient forms of capitalism had its roots in the agrarian societies; the ancient form of capitalism was prevalent in ancient Israel, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and in the ancient Roman empire. Weber is of the opinion that capitalism was at work in antiquity; he purports that the ancient societies were marked by “dramatic increases in wealth and these were often followed by decline” and therefore he argues that the existence of ‘apparent economic prosperity and expansion’ during this period show the evidence of capitalistic economic structure. Weber views capitalism as an economic system where “property is an object of trade, and is used by individuals for profit-making in a market economy”; following this definition Weber considers the slave-based agriculture (comprised of slaves and lands) as an ancient manifestation of capitalism (Love 35-36). The landlords and nobles used to levy rents from their dependants and the estates (plantations based on slave labour) they owned contributed to the economic surplus. The ancient cities were more natural economies which were centres of consumption than production and therefore the economic surplus had a crucial role to play in the prosperity of the economy. Most of the ancient cities depended on grain imports; however, in cities like Rome and Athens private trade was replaced by state intervention which is against the principles of capitalism. However, organized labour and organized division of labour was absent in the ancient societies even though some crude forms of grouping of slave labour was prevalent in certain plantations and factories. Weber’s list of capitalist pursuits in ancient societies include “government contracts (tax farming and public works), mining, sea trade (maritime loans), overland trade, the leasing of slaves, and the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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