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Comparison of the Stages of Capitalism

(from Lifelines From Our Past)



Commercial Capitalism 1500- 1770


New economics: rise of capitalism, profit mentality. Movement towards owner-labor distinction, specialized jobs, commercial production. European profits initially in the carrying trade. Quickly came to dominate oceanic trade.  Later added production of raw products and slaves. Mercantilism.


New politics: small, cohesive, competitive states; governments sponsor economic enterprise.


New thought: scientific revolution. New technologies.


Destruction:    African slave trade; destruction of Native American civilizations.




Industrial Capitalism 1770- 1914 (1940)


New economics: Shift of focus from trade to production. New type of labor arrangements.  Industrial production skyrocketed.


New thought: Extension of scientific thought (chemistry and medicine). Marriage of science and technology. Ultimately development of military-driven technological innovation by WWI.   Social Darwinism.


New Politics:  increasingly powerful states created colonial empires. Made possible by growing technological superiority.  Driven by competition between states, and by internal demands of consumers/voters.


Destruction:  1) Traditional economies disrupted in other great civilizations.

                      2) Traditional cultures disrupted or even destroyed even in other great


                      3) Westernized elites emerged. Peasant masses resentful. Split within


                     4) Asian coolie labor replaced slaves on plantations.

                     5) Enormous disruption of European society, too. (WWI, Russian

Revolution, the Great Depression, WWII). A “Time of Troubles” lasted

 from 1914 to 1940.







High-tech Capitalism, 1940 and After


This period has been characterized by an unprecedented rate of technological innovation along with equally unprecedented problems. This has led to questioning and reevaluation of society and values around the world.





The focal point of technological advance shifted decisively to the military.

1945-1975, golden age of capitalism. World output increased. Global GNP doubled per capita even though population rose from 2.8 to 4.4 billion in that time. Global production effectively created. “global assembly line”

Multinational corporations led this boom. Have integrated the world economy to an unprecedented degree. National sovereignty often over-ridden. Technological innovations in transportation and communications central




All types of societies “spinning their wheels after 1975. Universal problems after 1975 have led to reassessments everywhere.

Central weakness of World Capitalism- lack of global purchasing power.

The Second World failed to develop a true economic alternative to capitalism. By the 1970’s were drawn into the global economy, but economic and technological shortcomings led to crisis.

Socioeconomic and cultural disruption have exploded in the Third World.

In the First World, the inherent weaknesses of world Capitalism have produced serious economic and social problems. “uncoupling of manufacturing productivity from manufacturing employment”