The Economic Organisation of England: An Outline History

By William Ashley | Go to book overview

LECTURE VIII
Joint Stock and the Evolution of Capitalism

We have seen that the establishment of the factory or "works' system implied the advent of large Capital in the field of manufacture, and the acquisition by its owners or users of the control over the whole process of production as well as of distribution. And it is obvious that what may conveniently and for brevity be called "Capitalism," i.e. modern methods of production directed for the profit-making purposes of capital, has in one respect been vastly successful. Human labour has been applied in an incomparably more effective way than before; science, by means of costly machinery, has utilised forces of nature to an extent and of a kind before undreamt of. Commodities in consequence have been inconceivably multiplied and cheapened; and, as a result, a population almost four times as great was supported on English soil in 1901 as in 1801, and in a state of material comfort which, for the great body of the people, was undoubtedly superior to that of a century before. But it is equally obvious that, human nature being what it is, the capitalistic organisation of industry under private ownership necessarily brought with it a certain opposition of immediate interests between employers and employed, and a constant risk of industrial conflict.

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