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 IX
THE VARIANT FORMS OF ECONOMIC LIFE

THE PERSISTENCE OF UNCAPITALISTIC FORMS OF ECONOMIC LIFE

To WHAT degree has capitalism fallen short of becoming the exclusive form of economic life, of engrossing not only all the economically active persons but also all their economic activities? To one living in the most capitalistic of all areas, the United States, from one point of view, at least, it would seem that the answer is substantially negative. All men everywhere seem to be bound in to the will of men everywhere else through the nexus of the market; South Sea islanders drying copra destined to serve the toilet uses of Europeans as soap; trappers in the Siberian and Canadian wilds prospering or the opposite according to the fluctuations of fashion; American farmers depending upon the price of wheat on the Liverpool grain exchange. From that point of view, indeed, either as victims or as beneficiaries, all the world is involved in the conveniences and complications of capitalism.

From another point of view, capitalism is hardly even predominant as a form of economic life. Excluding the small farmers, the small tradesmen, the employees of the states, such as railroad and postal employees, as not exactly either managers or employees of capitalistic enterprises, Sombart concluded that in the United States about 38 per cent, in Europe outside Russia 25 to 33 per cent, in Russia, about 10 per cent represent the share of capitalism in the whole economic life before 1914. This point of view is most tenable if for capitalism as a category we substitute "high capitalism." Certainly, it is easy to recognize that the small merchant or manufacturer who works with the few men he employs, and

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