Marxism and Economic Theory


 Human relationships have always been dynamic. Change and 
adaptability have gone hand in hand with the passage of time for human 
society. Systems have been developed to regulate, direct and control 
the resources of this society. The systems are referred to as 
governments and the resources as the populace or inhabitants and 
forces of production. A government must be dynamic in its nature 
reflecting the change in society. At times these systems have resisted 
the necessity to adapt with its components (Society) creating a 
deficit between the system and those it regulates. As the deficits 
develop, they cause instability, and could lead to revolution.1
 Theories have been developed to explain the systemic 
phenomenon called revolution. This paper will discuss three modern 
theories and apply them to the English revolution of 1640. The first 
theory, developed by Carl Marx (Marxism), will address the economic 
evolution in English society. This theory will emphasize and explain 
how the shift from a feudal/mercantile system to capitalism affected 
English society. The second, called the Resource Mobilization Theory 
(RMT) developed by Charles Tilly, will explain how the English 
organizations (the Crown and the Parliament) effectively obtained, 
amassed and managed resources. Samuel Huntington's, "Institutional 
Theory", will argue that the existing government at that time was 
unable to incorporate the demands and personnel that the 
socio-economic changes created.
 Marxism was formulated in the 19th century. Carl Marx and his 
associate Frederick Engels observed the socio-economic changes that 
were transpiring in Britain. England was the dominant world power and 
had the largest industrialized economy during the 1800's. The 
development of the factory and the institution of the assembly line 
created a large demand for workers. This demand was satiated by 
migrating peasant from the rural areas in England and Ireland to 
developing urban centers. As these urban centers or cities evolved 
using industry as the economic backbone for the population, a large 
number of factory workers were accumulated to operate the machinery in 
horrid conditions. These workers, which would be termed as the 
peasantry under a feudal system, were now the working class or 
proletariat. They entered cities with hopes of bettering their lives 
and survival. Though revolution never took place in England during 
this period, it allowed Marx to study industrialization, urbanization 
and imperialism. 
 The theory of Marxism has three basic concepts: historic 
materialism, forces of production and relations of production. 
Historic materialism is defined as a society's past performance and 
present capabilities of satisfying the basic means of life. 
Humankind's basic needs of eating, drinking and shelter need to be met 
properly. The forces of production (technology, capital, the 
infrastructure of society, etc.) are important for the simple fact of 
who ever controls them controls the society. The last aspect of 
Marxism, the relations of production, deals directly with the 
relationships between classes of people (the aristocracy, the 
middle-class and the working class).2 
 Marxism includes a predictive analysis of socio-economic 
structures. Using history, logic and the dynamic nature of humankind 
as guidelines, Carl Marx attempts to map out a sequence of events 
which will eventually lead to utopia (anarchy). In his work, Das 
Capital, Marx details the six steps. These steps are primitive 
socialism, feudalism, capitalism, socialism, communism and then 
anarchy. The evolution of the English economic system during the 16th 
and 17th centuries points to a shift from feudalism to capitalism. 
This shift is exemplified by the enclosures. The landlords began to 
fence their property in the common land areas. The "commons" were 
large plots of grazing and farmable lands that were used by both 
farmers and artisans. When the land-owners and manorial lords began to 
partition these lands the concept of private ownership of property was 
introduced to the socio-economic system.3
 During the time period of the 16th and 17th centuries the 
crown's economic base began a gradual decline. This economic shrinkage 
came to a spearhead during the reign of Charles I. The monarchy 
favored a monopoly market system over a competitive one. The purpose 
for this position was for taxation and control of the profits. As the 
artisan and merchant populations increased, the policy of the crown 
began conflicting with economic growth. This created instability in 
three areas. First, the English monarchy needed money to support its 
army which insures social compliance. The second area of contention 
was the restraints and interference the Crown initiated on the rising 
middle-class. Thirdly, the rise of the bourgeoisie created competition 
for the state sanctioned monopolies, reducing its profit.
Howard Erskine-Hill refutes Marxism. He states that neither ... 

"the 'rise of the gentry' ... ideas concerning resistance to rulers 
... nor even the narrowing financial base of the Tudor and Stuart 
monarchy ... determined the outbreak of the Civil War ... They are 
circumstances . . . contributing to an outcome which was not 

Jack A. Goldstone, in his work Revolutions, argues that once 
historical data is carefully examined Marxism falls short. The Marxist 
reasons for the revolution are factors, but its scope of analysis is 
to narrow.

"...the neo-Marxist view... with its focus on elite politics 
and the failings of Charles I run into difficulties when confronted 
with evidence."5 

An example of this "evidence" that Goldstone refers to, are the 
enclosures. The land owners had support from the farmers who resided 
on the land. The parties that were affected by enclosure movement were 
the artisans and merchants. These merchant and artisan, or rather 
Marxism rising bouroeisie, were the unfortunate targets of this 
policy. The rising English Bourgeoisie used the land to satisfy there 
needs for resources (i.e. wood for fire and craftsmanship). Thus, a 
new theory must be introduced to explain the factors leading to and 
the Revolution itself. 
 Charles Tilly, in his work, Political Conflict Theory, 
introduce the theory of "Resource Mobilization"(RMT). The two aspects 
of RMT are government and those who contend with the government for 
power. Power is defined as control of the resources. The resources are 
capital, means of production and personnel. 6 There are three 
characteristics to the RMT7 that help further explain the revolution. 
First, two or more organizations (government included) must claim the 
right to rule and control government. The conflict between the Crown 
and the Parliament during the 1640's meet this criteria. King Charles 
I during his rule attempted to close the rift between Catholics and 
Protestants. This policy was disturbing to the English populace. 
However, the brunt of this new policy was felt in Scotland and 
perceived was a direct assault on their religious organizations. The 
Scots rebelled and amassed a army to invade England an emancipate 
themselves from Charles I's authority. The King needed to acquire 
funds to raise an army so he called Parliament into session. 
 After 6 years of silence, Parliament was aggressive against 
the crown. Instead of strong support for the King, they came with a 
list of grievances which needed to be addressed.8 It is this 
aggression which characterizes an organization contending for power in 
the government. The second characteristic, is the commitment of a 
significant amount of the population to each organization. In January 
1642, the King attempted to arrest five MP's (Members of Parliament). 
Having failed, the King traveled north to an important port which was 
also a military stronghold, as well. Parliament denied him access. 
This was a definite sign of the waning power of the King. Charles I 
traveled to Nottingham to raise his standard. People began to rally 
behind the King. Parliament severely underestimated the influence of 
the Charles I and the idea of the monarchy. A significant amount of 
people rallied behind the King and the Civil War soon followed9.
 The third, and the most applicable, is the incapacity of 
and/or the unwillingness of the government to suppress the challenges 
for power. The King was desirous to put down the Scots, and eventually 
Parliament, after it was called into session (long Parliament). He was 
incapable in raising an army earlier without Parliament's 
appropriation of the necessary funds to pay an army.10 Therefore, the 
opponents of the Crown were given space to develop and acquire 
resources. Resource Mobilization Theory focuses on the leadership of 
both the revolutionary organization and the government in power. The 
three above stated characteristics of England in the 1640's, only 
emphasizes the short term factors for the revolution The fact that 
Parliament is actually part of the government provides a complication 
in the application of RMT. However, Parliament was struggling against 
the King to acquire more control over resources. The King showed 
himself as a bungling statesman in dealing with parliaments demands 
and grab for power. This is a classic example that shows what happens 
when "carrot ideas"11 are implemented without discretion and 
supervision. It could be argued that Charles I lack of sensitivity to 
the people was the cause for this lack of discretion.
 Even with the application of two theories, a satisfactory 
explanation of both the factors leading to the uprising and the 
revolution itself are lacking. A third theory must be brought to this 
case study. Samuel Huntington's, "Institutional theory", argues that 
there are inherent tensions between political and economic 
developments. If there are large economic changes in society then 
there must be political change to guide the modifications which are 
taking place, as well as, incorporating new social developments.12
England's Crown during the 17th century was lacking in ability 
to be dynamic. Trade and production began to increase so did the 
population. This increase created a middle-class in England. The 
middle-class consisted of artisans, merchants, land owners and 
landlords (these classifications are not all inclusive). Competition 
between the middle-class and state encouraged monopolies became 
evident during this time. There was a definite power shift away from 
property to the people. 13 
 Another long term factor lies within the King's policy toward 
the Catholics. This relaxing of tensions between the Protestants and 
Catholics was not viewed as favorable by the rising gentry 
(Middle-class). A form of Protestantism referred to as Puritanism was 
the main belief system of the gentry. This was an extremely 
conservative sect of protestantism, religious toleration was not 
acceptable to them14. This was another social development which 
Charles I "over-looked".
 Institutionalization was never a reality in British politics 
during this period in history. The organizations that existed in the 
English monarchy during the early 1600's were unable to promote value 
and stability. The system became rigid and unadapting to the demands 
for change made by new socio-economic factors. The constant attempts 
by both the Crown and the Parliament to subordinate one another 
removed their ability to reach a compromise. Thus, there is not one 
theory that can be used to satisfy all of the causal factors, 
institutional developments and socio-economic changes of the English 
revolution of 1640. Marxism addressed the changes the English economy 
made creating capitalist markets and free trade. It maps out the 
general factors which helped lead to capture and execution of the King 
of England, Charles I. Resource Mobilization Theory argued in more 
specific terms, defining that the organization which controls the 
resources has the power. It clarifies the power struggle between the 
Crown and the Parliament. Short term factors, present before and 
during the revolution, were emphasized by RMT. The last theory 
presented by this paper was Institutional Theory. It explained, in 
long term factors, the causes leading to the revolution by discussing 
the rise of the gentry, economics and religious intolerance. 
 There is no single theory to explain every relevant factor 
present in revolution. However, the application of a select number or 
combination of theoretical approaches, helps to establish a proper 
framework for analysis of revolutions. Despite all of the ground 
breaking research and theorizing being done on revolution, it still 
remains a phenomenon and can not be predicted.


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