A History of the Economic Institutions of Modern Europe: An Introduction of der Moderne Kapitalismus of Werner Sombart

By Frederick L. Nussbaum | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE ADAPTATION OF POPULATION GROUPS TO CAPITALISM

THE ORGANIZANON OF LABOR

THE development of a wage-working class is one of the essential prerequisites of the capitalistic economy. The problem is two- fold: first, how the propertyless class, the potential wage-workers, came to be, and second, how they were organized into a suitable and responsive labor force.

We are confronted in the centuries from the sixteenth to the nineteenth with two apparently contradictory phenomena: a large mass of unemployed persons and a great dearth of labor supply. The numbers of beggars which investigators such as Levasseur, Rogers, and Perthes have established for France, England, and Germany are appalling even to modern ears, accustomed to post- bellum unemployment crises. In the fifteenth century, a contemporary estimated the number of beggars in Paris at 80,000; in 1634, another set their number at one-fourth of the city's population. Voltaire and Mercier regarded the number of beggars as an incident of wealth. In the provinces, conditions were equally bad. In 1482, Troyes numbered 3,000 beggars in a population of 15,000. In 1678, Amiens had from 5,000 to 6,000 laborers who depended on alms. The bishop of Montauban wrote in 1694, "We find six or seven dead at the gate of the town almost every day, and in my diocese of 750 parishes about 450 persons die every day from lack of food." Gregory King ( 1696) estimated the number of persons in England dependent on alms at one-fourth of the poulation. The money collected for poor rates equaled a quarter of

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