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 V
POPULATION AND LABOR SUPPLY

THE SOURCES OF LABOR SUPPLY

WITHOUT LABOR SUPPLY, NO CAPITALISM. How difficult this problem was during the early capitalistic period has already been shown-- how lacking in persistence, in discipline, in capitalistic motive, was such labor as the entrepreneurs could get, and what drastic, often inhumane measures were applied in order to secure some sort of labor force.

In 1927, a small item appeared in a distant city paper to the effect that one hundred carpenters were needed in the small college town in which this is being written. The statement was false, but for weeks thereafter carpenters appeared from all points of the compass, each seeking one of these hundred supposed "jobs." The contrast with David Dale's troubles in finding laborers when he was establishing New Lanark embraces nearly the whole of the history of labor in relation to high capitalism. It has freed itself from localism, from communal activity in village or gild, from family dependency. It has increased itself, so that there are always plenty of people to do anything that (capitalistically speaking) needs to be done. They have made themselves ready to go where the money of the entrepreneur tells them to go, they have learned to handle his machines and to punch his time clocks, they have adopted his gain motive and they battle with him and with each other for the highest possible gains in the form of wages.

A great amount of labor power was furnished to capitalism by legal slavery, especially Negro slavery, although, as we shall see, it was capitalism that destroyed slavery. The most important aspect

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