Karl Marx’s theory of economic growth



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Karl Marx’s theory of economic growth:

Among the few famous persons who have influenced not only the masses but also the intelligentia in the world by their writings and teachings, Karl Marx has a most honoured place. He is regarded as the founder of modern communism which had taken deep roots in many countries of the world. This great man’s works are significant from the point of view of economics also. The four volumes of his magnum opus “Das Capital” containing also 4000 pages provide useful source material for study by sociologists, Politians, historians, social reformers and economists. Some of his views relating to economic growth are:



1. Historical stages of growth:

Marx has analyzed the main stages which have taken place in human history. According to him, all historical events are the result of a continuous economic struggle between different classes in society. According to Marx, the mode of production which determines the general character of social, political, and spiritual processes of life is the main cause of social change.

As methods and techniques of production change the social relations which follow them also change. Against this background Marx describes four stages in history. They are:

a. Primitive Communism

b. Slavery

c. Feudalism

d. Capitalism

Primitive communism is the first stage. It was characterized by a classes society, were in all factors of production was owned in common and people lived in groups. Gradually a society having a few masters and many slaves remaining under the control of masters came into existence. With the development of productive forces, feudalism replaced slavery. Under feudalism there were two classes namely, feudal lords and serfs. On account of friction between these two classes’ namely feudal lords and serfs this system comes to an end. Serfs agitate and get emancipated from feudal lord ultimately feudalism gives way to capitalism. Merchants and entrepreneurs become leaders in the economic field. Industrial revolution and other changes which took place at the same time gave a new phase time gave a new phase to the economic system which was taking a definite shape at that time. In this atmosphere a new class of workers (proletariat) emerged against the class of capitalist. The conflicting interest of these two classes is important features of capitalism. There has always been a clash of interest between these two classes. This class conflict according to Marx is the cause of the collapse of capitalism and the rise of socialism. “Capitalism sows the seeds of its own destruction”. Thus class conflict is the mechanism of social change. Under the new social order- socialism, economic condition of the working class is improved according to Marxian theory of development communism emerges as the last stage of socialism. Under communism:

1. Poverty is rooted out.

2. Class conflict is absent.

3. Every individual contributes to national income. According to his abilities and receives according to his abilities and receives according to his needs.

4. Above all the state withers away.

According to the Marxian theory of economic development any social system based on class conflict cannot be a permanent system. So capitalism is to be considered as a transition state in the evolution of society. The capitalist controls the means of production and the workers depend on the capitalist for work. The main aim of the capitalist for work, the main aim of the capitalist is to maximize their profits. This they do by exploitation of labour pay low wages, long hours of work and employment of women and children are some of the ways by which a capitalist exploit workers. As exploitation increases conditions become ripe to overthrow of capitalism by the united proletariat. Thus increasing antagonism between capitalist and workers creates conditions for the destruction of capitalism, the emergence of socialism. Here lies the importance of class conflict in the Marxian development model.
The theory of surplus value:

The ides of surplus value which is related to capitalism is important in Marxian theory of economic development. In this society all the means of production are owned by a small group of people-capitalist. The workers on the other hand sell their labour to the capitalist. The capitalist produces commodities employing labour machinery and raw-materials. In this way production starts and the act of production creates surplus value. The commodity commands a certain market value, which is more than the wages paid to the workers. The labour power which the capitalist purchases in the market has the unique feature of producing more than its value. Thus the economy is capable of producing a surplus over and above the subsistence needs of the labourers, and the capital equipment used in production. Labourers are paid wages which are equal to the value of subsistence necessary for their maintence. Thus according to Marx, the wages paid to workers are less than the market value of the commodity and the wages paid to the work constitute the profit or surplus value which is appropriated by the capitalist. This surplus value according to Marx ought to have gone to the workers who are the real creators of surplus value.

Marx argues that the total value of output produced in a capitalist economy can be divided in to three components:

1. Constant capital (C): This represents the value of materials and machinery used up in production.

2. Variable capital (v): This represents the amount of labour used in production or the wages paid to the workers.

3. Surplus value (S.V.): This represents profit.

The total value of product is equal to these three components that are C+V+S.

According to Marx, workers get only a part of the total value of output and the remaining part of the value goes to the capitalist. It is this that Marx’s calls,” exploitation of labour”.

The aim of capitalist is always to increase the surplus value (profit). The capitalist adopt three methods to increase the surplus value. First of all, they may increase the working hours of the labourers, secondly, they may reduce the wages below subsistence level. However, this is only a temporary measure because lowering of wages below the subsistence level will adversely affect the labour force in due course. Improving the productivity of the working class through improvement in the state of technology is the third method.

Organic composition of capital:

The capitalist constantly try to adopt new techniques o production to increase the extent of surplus value accruing to them for this purpose then must go on accumulating capital. This results in an increase in the proportion of constant capital (C) relating to variable capital (V). The consequence of these changes in the structure of capital is of great importance. These consequences are:

1. Increasing misery of workers and intensification of class struggle.

2. Increase in the industrial reserve army.

3. Fall in the rate of profit.

4. Decline in the number of capitalist and concentration of capital in the hands of a few capitalist.



Class struggle:

According to Karl Marx in the capitalist system, class conflict between employers or capitalist and workers is inevitable. The interests of these two classes are opposed to each other. The capitalist who control the means of production always aim at maximizing profits. This they do by exploitation of labour. Though workers oppose exploitation they are disunited and hence ineffective. As a result of an increase in the growth of population the supply of labour force will be generally more than the demand for labour force. Therefore, the payment of subsistence wages is enough to attract considerable workers needed by capitalist. As capitalist adopt new techniques of production and introduce new machines the employment opportunities decline. This results in an increase in the industrial reserve army. Though the productivity of labour increases as a result of the adoption of new techniques of production, yet, wages do not rise. The resulting productivity enhances the surplus value take away by the capitalist. The conditions of the workers become more miserable on account of low wages, increase in the supply of labour force and increase in industrial reserve army. The labourers who have opportunities to come together and exchange their ideas unite in to a force capable of opposing exploitation by the capitalist.



Concentration of capital:

Marx believes that as capitalism progresses wealth tends to concentrated in fewer and fewer hands and the monopoly phase of capitalism ensues. Competition among capitalists themselves leads to the expropriation of many small capitalists by a few big capitalists. All capitalist cannot adopt new methods of production at the same time. Some adopt new methods of production and others try to follow them. In this way capitalist compete with one another to get high profits and to survive. In this competition,” one capitalist kills money”. As a result of this, the means of production come under the control of only a few capitalist and wealth gets concentrated in a fewer hands.



Increase in the supply of capital:

Capitalist pay minimum level of wages to workers and appropriate for themselves surplus value. The situation arising from this according to Marx is the cause of the down fall of capitalism. In this situation the demand for capital lacks behind the supply of capital though profit increases with economic development yet on account of the existence of mal-distribution of income, savings tend to rise. The capitalist whose income is high generally save a large part of their income. Since workers get subsistence wage they cannot save much. The exploitation of workers, by capitalist, who get all the surplus value, results in a rise in the supply of capital. This creates a situation were the supply of capital exceeds demand. Thus capital formation production is no longer profitable. Demand falls as machines displace workers and industrial reserve army expands. To make matters worst, capitalist dump goods in the market and in the process small capitalist disappear. This results in a capitalist crisis. The ultimate cause of crisis is the poverty and limited purchasing power of the masses. The period of economic crisis is characterized by over production, lack of demand, low prices, unemployment and low wages. However, this does not continue for ever. Recovery soon starts, the succession from recovery to boom is followed by crisis indicates that, trade cycles are common in capitalist economies. In each period of crisis big capitalist expropriate small capitalist and along with it grows the indignation of the workers who unite and get ready to over throw capitalist. Ultimately the new socialist society comes into existence.



Imperialism:

When capitalist realize that investment opportunities are less at home they think of capturing foreign markets. The opening up of foreign trade enables strong capitalist nations to establish colonial empires and exploit colonies. The colonies not only provide markets for finished goods but also supply raw-materials needed by them. However this economic relationship between empires and colonies does not help the colonies in any way. On the other hand it enables the imperial power to exploit the colonies and keep them backward. In this manner capitalist country tries to spread imperialism in the world for their survival. However the establishment of colonial empires does not prevent the doom of capitalism. All the capitalist countries compete with each other capture foreign markets and to establish colonies. This results in imperialistic wars. In the exploited countries, the spirit of nationalism grows gradually and it tries to root out imperialism. The imperialistic wars the growth of nationalism in poor countries and the occurrences of proletariat revolution in capitalist’s countries finally bring about the destruction of capitalism and facilitate the emergence of socialism. Thus the contradictions implicit in the capitalist system ultimately leads to the over throw of this system and the rise of socialism. As there will be no class conflict in socialism, thus the system ensures continued steady growth.

In a nutshell it can be said that, the expropriation of surplus value by capitalist, the sole aim of the productive system being the maximization of profit of capitalist rather than satisfying social necessities, competition among the capitalist to get high profit resulting in the disappearance of small capitalist and concentration of wealth and means of production in fewer and fewer hands, increase in industrial reserve army on account of growth of technology and population, increasing misery of the workers and intensification of class conflict, lack of demand for produced goods and the lack of investment opportunities fall in the rate of profit and such other social and economic factors cause the destruction of capitalism and the emergence of socialism.

Appraisal:

The Marxian theory of economic development can be examined from two angles. 1. Relates to the examination of Marx’s assumptions and predictions in the light of the subsequent actual happenings in the world. 2. Refers to the examination of the place of dynamic factors and their interrelationships contained in the theoretical frame work of his theory of capitalist development.

Marx’s prophecy that the capitalist system will collapse after reaching the advanced stage of development and that socialism will emerge in its place only afterwards has been proved false by history. The country such as Russia and China had been in the very early stages of evaluation of capitalization when they adopted communism through revolution. Moreover socialism has not displaced capitalism in USA and UK and other capitalist countries. Further more communism has not come into existence on the lines laid down by Karl Marx.

Marx has pointed out that the technological progress is helpful to capitalist and increases the misery of workers. But this has not happened in the capitalist countries on the contrary workers have been receiving high wages and other facilities in these countries. The introduction of social security measures in the capitalist societies has promoted the welfare of workers. According to Marx, the development of capitalism will bring the capitalist and workers in the opposite camps. However such a thing is now a matter of the past. Their is no sign of withering away of the state in capitalist societies.

Many capitalist societies have taken many steps to achieve the objective of full employment; therefore, the industrial reserve army is not increasing.

Marx’s argument that as capitalism progresses wealth, economic power gets concentrated in fewer and fewer hands is also not a sound argument, as capitalist will have to work within the frame-work of rules and regulations framed by the governments of these countries.

The doctrine of surplus value is regarded as the weakest point in his theory of economic growth. Critics argue that all factors of production are needed to produce a commodity and workers alone cannot claim the entire volume of the commodity.

Marxian theory of economic growth is applicable indirectly to developing countries. All though Marx did not think of the problem of the developing countries, yet some of the variables of his analysis do exist in such countries.



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