CAPITALISM IN CHARLES DICKENS` HARD TIMES

Capitalism in Charles Dickens` Hard Times 11

CAPITALISMIN CHARLES DICKENS` HARD TIMES

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Abstract

TheNineteenth Century heraldedtheindustrialrevolutionthat ledto increasedproductionandincreasedemploymentof themasses.At thesametime,Englandadoptedcapitalism,an economicideologywherethefactorsof productionare allocatedby themarketforces.Capitalismledtothe creationof socialclassesthat depended on thewealthandownershipof thefactorsof production.Themiddle-classwasforcedto selltheir labourto theindustriesto earntheir livelihoodsbutwasgivenmeagrepaydue to theincreasedunemployedpopulacein thesociety.Thefactoryownersmarshalledmorewealth,increasingthesocialgapbetween thepoorandtherich.

Capitalismis an economic, social and political ideology that is based on theprinciple of individual rights, the rule of law and the free market.It is a peculiar form of class society where the ownership of themeans of production is controlled by the market forces of demand andsupply. This ensures that factors of production are owned andcontrolled by individuals and corporate, rather than the state. Theideology leads to an organisation of the economy in such a way thatthe owners of the factors of production dictate production quantitiesand qualities as defined by the market forces, with labour beingviewed as a critical factor in the production process. Capitalismdeveloped during the era of industrial revolution and had notableimpacts on the working populace of the time. This paper exemplifiesthe evolution of capitalism through the era of industrial revolutionand evidences the various criticism of capitalism using CharlesDickens novel, HardTimes.

Criticalperspectives on 19th Century England

Thenineteenth centurywasan exceptionaleraforEngland, culminatingin theindustrialrevolution.Thefirstcensusof thecountrythat wasconductedin 1801 revealedthatonlytwenty percent of thepopulationlivedin urbanareas.Thenumberof towndwellershadincreasedto representfifty percent of thetotalpopulaceby 1851, andmorethan two-thirds of thetotalpopulationb y 1881 (Foster 2005, p. 34). In theinitialyearsof thecentury,themajorityof thepeopleworkedin agricultureandagro-related industries,with mostof thegoodsmadeby hands.Themajorityof thecraftsmenworkedon their own,perhapswith fewapprentice,mostlyproducingrudimentarytoolsthat wereusedin agro-production. Thegreatestphenomenonof thecentury,theindustrialrevolution,changedthenormalcy, leadingto theestablishmentof numerousfactoriesthat producedmostof their productsusingmachines.Thenewlyestablishedindustriesabsorbedmorepeoplein employment,raisingtheir incomeandhencetheir standardsof living.Workersin theseindustriesformedlabourunionsto protectthemselves from employersexploitations andpushforemployeesrights(The Annenberg, Foundation 2004, p.2). Further,there wastheenactmentof severalfactoryactsthat signalledthevariouslabourreformsof thetime.Someof theseincludedthefactoryacts,whichrestrictedchildlabourthat hadrisento unprecedentedlevels, heraldedby theincreasednumberof industries.Otherthan thelabourreforms,England underwentnotablepoliticalreformsfollowingthevariouspoliticalunrestswitnessedin thecountryat thefirstquarterof thecentury.Mostof thesepoliticalreformswerepropelledby theworkingclassthat formedthesignificantportionof thepopulace(Williams 2004, p.23). Theincreasednumberof theworkingclassledto thedevelopmentof thelaissez-faire economicideology.Theideologypostulatedthatthegovernmentshould not interferewith theaffairsof thesociety,edgingEngland to adoptthecapitalist economicperspectives.In thissystemresourcesandmeansof productionwereallocatedby themarketforcesof demandandsupply(Ates 2008, p.32). ThispaperexemplifiestheEngland capitalistic systemduring theindustrialrevolutionandoutlinesthevariouscriticismof thesystemby Charles Dickens in his novelHard Times.

Capitalisticsystem during the industrial revolution

Capitalismis an Economicandpoliticalsystemwherethemeansof productionarecontrolledby themarketforcesratherthan thestate.Itis a peculiarformof classsocietyinvolvinga theminoritysectionof thesocietygrabbingthesurplusthat isgeneratedafter thetoilof themajority(Foster2005, p.53). However,unlike otherideologies,capitalismgainsits powerthrough buyingthepeople`scapacityto workreferredto as thelabourpowerby Karl Marx. Thiseconomicandpoliticalideologyhas not alwaysexistedin England butwasprecededby othersocialsystemssuchas feudalism. In feudalism, there wasa dominantsocialrelationshipbetween thecrown,thelords,thechurchandtheserfs(Williams 2004, p.57). Theprimefactorof production,thelandwasownedby thefeudal lordsandthepeasantrieswereboundto workontheselandsto getthebareminimumto paytaxandmaintaintheir livelihood.Productionof thefewpeasantsandartisans wasextractedusingpoliciesforpaymentof cashtributeto thecrownandthelords.Themanconflictduring feudalism wasbetween theproducersandthelandowners(The Annenberg, Foundation 2004, p.13). Thelandowners alwayssoughtto increasetherent to maintaintheir classpower,whilethepeasantsstruggledto relaxthestranglehold andretainmostof theincome.Somewereableto accumulateenoughwealthandbuylandsbreakingthemonopolyof landownershipby thelords.Theyestablishedindustries(industrialrevolution)andwereableto improvetheir productionprocessesfaster-accumulating capitalandemployingothers to assistin theproduction(Williams 2004, p.77). Over time,theincreasedfactoriesdevelopeda classof relativelyprosperousworkersalongside theimpoverishedpeasants.Thisledto a polarisation of thesociety,layingthebasisforthewagelaboursystem,markingthestartof capitalism(The Annenberg, Foundation 2004, p.15).

Capitalismwasnot justmarkedby productionforthemarketwith minimalgovernmentinterventionsin determiningthepricesof commoditiesbutalsobythesystemsthat ownedthefactorsof production.Productiontools,machines,rawmaterialsandthelocationfortheproductionprocessbelongedto thecapitalistandwereallocatedaccordingto thepresumedprofitsgenerationas determinedby themarketforces(Ates 2008, p.34). Thelabourershadnothingto sellexcept their labourpower,which itself hadbeenconvertedinto acommoditythat could be soldand boughtwithin thelabourmarket.Unlike theFeudalism thatrequiredpoliciesto extractthesurplusesfrom theproducersandallocatethem to thelargerpopulace,capitalismrelied ontheeconomicfactorsto distributethesurprises.Assuch,theworkershadnochoicebutto providelabourfortheestablishedindustriesorfacestarvationsince,unlikeFeudalism, themarketforcesunder capitalismwereimpersonal(Shaw-Taylor 2012, p.2). Thenewlyestablishedcapitalistsdemandedtheabolitionof monopolypowerandprivilegesin tradeandindustriesthat hadallowedpromotedtheincreasedprofitability of themerchants,at theexpenseof theotherproducers.Themonopolypowerwasabolished,leadingto thecreationof freemarketcompetitionat home.Thisallowedinvestmentsin lucrativeventuresthat wereearlierseenas thepreserve of thelordsunder theFeudalism ideology(Kaminski 2013, p.1).

Theindustrialrevolutionhelpedin thecreationof a largepoolof labourforce,therebyassuringthecapitalistsa steadysupplyof labourevenat minimumwagesevenas theproductiongrew.Producersinvestedinmoretechnologiesto increasetheproductivityof labour,therebyincreasetheprofitability of their enterprises (Mikkelsen 1996, p.12).Capitalistic systemscompelledallproducersto producein bulkandincreasecapital,failureto which theywould be swallowedby competitors.Accordingto Marx, thiscentralisation of capitalwould eventuallyleadto thereductionof largenumberof firms to fewbuthugeproductioncentres(Ates 2008, p.37). Asone would imaginetheincreasedinventionsledto thereductionof theworkers,since thenewlyadoptedtechnologies would undertakesimilaramountsof productionusingfewerworkers.Themassiveretrenchmentof theworkersensuredan existenceof a largearmyof theunemployedpersons,whowould takeup anyemploymentevenat theminimumwage.Assuch,thewagerateremaineddangerouslylow,at levels thattheywould not hurttheprofits.Workersreluctantlyagreedto theordeal,since anydiscontentwould leadto their firing (Shaw-Taylor 2012, p.12). Assuch,theworkersremainedrelativelypoor,unableto acquirethemajorityof thebasichumannecessitiesdespite beingemployed.Thesedevastatingeffectsof capitalismon workerscompelledthem to formlabourunionsto championtherightsof theworkers,suchas adequateremunerationandprotectionfrom arbitraryunemployment.Despite thehugedevastatingimpactson theworkerswelfare,capitalismledto increasedinvestmentsin industriessuchas machinery,ironandcoal,leadingto a netincreasein demandforlabour(Kaminski 2013, p.1). Assuch,Britain, andothercountriesthat underwentcapitalist transformationmadetheindustrialoutputsurpassagriculturaloutput,andtheindustrialworkforce outpace theagriculturalworkforce. By1871, theindustrialsectorwastheprimarysourceof nationalincome,employingmorethan fifty-five percent of theworkforces, comparedthefourteen percent of thepopulacethat wasemployedin agricultureandrelatedindustries(Foster 2005, p. 61).

Increasedindustrialization heraldedincreasedurbanisation, consumptionof variouscommodityincreasedproductionmovedfrom homesto industriesincreasedindustrialworkforce increasedthepurchasingpowerof thepopulace.Capitalismrequiredconstantreductionof theproductioncoststo ensurecorporate survivalin thecompetitiveindustrialsectorculminatingto thecheapening of rawmaterials.Assuch,capitalismspilledover to theagriculturalsector,graduallynarrowing thegapbetween thetwomainsectorsof theeconomy,theIndustrial andagriculturesector(Yavuz 2004, p.1).

CharlesDickens` criticism of capitalistic system in HardTimes

CharlesDickens, one of therenownedwriterandsocialcritic,criticisescapitalistic ideologiesthrough his novel,Hard Times. Thenovelusesphilosophicalsatireto criticisecapitalismandrevealthenegativeeffectsof industrialization. Itis one of thestrongestcritiquesof thesocialdevelopmentsof thetime,usinghumourandsentimentalmelodramato passthemessage.Theapplicationof humouris evidentwhenthewriterdescribesMr, Bounderby as “Amanmadeout of a coarsematerial,which seemedto havestretchedto makesomuchof him,”(Dickens 1854). ThedescriptionrevealsDickens distasteof therisingandgreedymiddle-classpopulacethat wasestablishedduringindustrialization(Dickens 1854, p.16). Mr. Bounderby playsthecharacterof largegreedyandloudmiddle-classindividual,traitsthat are stronglymockedby Dickens, an evidenceof his loathingforthemiddle-classpopulace.On thecentrally,theworkingclassis depictedto be hardworking, meekbutremainpoorowingto thegreedof thehigherclass.Thisis portrayedby Stephen Blackpool,whoaccordingto Dickens, is a ratherstooping man,with a knittedblow,a pondering expressionof face,andhard-working headsufficientlycapacious,on which his iron-grey hairlaylongandthin(Dickens 1854, p.17). He(from theworkingclass)is theexactoppositeof Mr. Bounderby (thehighclass)(Dickens 1854, p 23).

DickenssatirisesMrs. Sparsit statingthatshewasagedbutstillhadtheCoiolanian styleof thenose,with darkanddenseeyebrows. Thereasongivenforthesetraitswasthatsherepresentedthe“snobbish,pretentiousrichhigherclass,wholookeddown on everyone,”(Dickens 1854, p.26). Thesatiricalrepresentationof themiddleclassrevealsthestrongrevulsionthat Dickens feltforthemiddleclass.Dickens criticizesMrs. Sprsit thatthoughshehadfallenout of power,shestillthoughtthatshewasbetterandricherthan allotherpeople,includingthosericherthan herself. Dickens describesher as a pinnacleof selfishnesswhothoughtof none butherself, thecharacteristicof theworkinghigherclass(Dickens 1854, p.33). Thesetraitsare contrastedwith thoseof theworkingclass,usingRachael, a womanwhorepresentstheworkingclass.Unlike Mrs. Sparsit, sheis humbleanddoesnot evenacceptglorification foranyhelpthat shegave.Theselflessness of theworkingclassisevidencedat theendof thebook,wheretheauthorexplainsthatafter thedeathof Stephen, shetookcareof thesickanddrunkwidow.Rachel is theexactoppositeof Mrs. Sparsit, accentuatingthealreadyhugegapbetween theworkingclassandthehigherclass.Theaccentuation revealsDickens viewabout thedestructiveness of capitalismn humannature(Dickens 1854, p.33).

Theuseof sentimentalmelodramais depictedthrough Harthouse’s predicamentsafter hewasleftby Louisa.After hewasleft,Harthouse is positivelyagitatedandspokewith an emphasisthat islikenedthatof a vulgar.His sentimentsdepicttheopportunistic andselfishvaluesof thehigherclassthat is representedby Harthouse. Harthouse wascompletelydisoriented by thesituationsince, forthefirsttime,hewould not gethis way,as hedidowingto theprivilegessetasideforhis class.ThisrevealsDickens’ lowopinionof thehighclass,whoaccordingto Dickens didnot deservetheprivilegesaccordedto them by their socialstatus.Assuch,Dickens criticisesclassesheraldedby theindustrialrevolutionandthecapitalistic systems,butfortheworkingclass.Dickens holdstheworkingclassin greatregardsandis of theopinionthattheworkingclassshould be therealownersof thefactorsof production.His opinionwasbasedon theviewthatitwastheworkingclassthat putgreateffortsin theproductionprocessas comparedto othersocialclasses(Dickens 1854, p.43).

Accordingto Dickens, theindustrialrevolutionhadhugedetrimentalimpactson thehumanityandmorespecificallyuponthefactoryownersequatingthesituationof thetimeto hell.Thisisevidenced by thecarefuluseof thered andblack coloursandthedepiction of theincreasedsufferingconditionsthatworkerswereforcedto liveowingto themeagrepay(Dickens 1854). Further,Dickens likensthesmokethat rosefrom thefactoryto thebiblical serpent,promptingtheleaderto visualisethefactoryas hellsince theserpentis thebiblical representationof evil.Eventhenaturalphenomenonssuch as the rivers are ruinedby industrialization. Thisisevidenced by Dickens criticismthat industriesreleasedtheir effluents directlyto theriversusingtheblack canals,andtherivershadturnedpurpledue to theseeffluents. There is a strongimpressionof dirtandspreadof diseaseswithin thepopulace,thedevastatingeffectsof industrialization (Dickens 1854, p.49).Additionally, Dickens is oftheviewthatindustrialization mechanizedtheworkers,makingeverything monotonousandawfullyboring.Accordingto him, industrialization deniedtheworkerstheir originality,feelingandimagination,makingthem robotic. Throughthesevalues,Dickens proposesthedevelopmentof thesocietyinto socialism,whereallmenare equal.Heproposestheneedforgenderequalityandtheneedfora wholeencompassing educationsystemthat incorporatesfactsandcultivatesimaginationto createa rationalman,whoindustrialization hadkilled(Dickens 1854, p.51).

Conclusion

Fromtheaforementioned, England underwentindustrialization in thenineteenth century,at thesametimewhenthesocietyshiftedfrom feudalism to capitalism.Thesetwo ledto thecreationof socialclasses,thepoor,theworkingclassandtherich,whowerethefactoryowners.Unlike feudalism that allocatedthesurplususingpolicies,capitalismusedtheimpersonalmarketforceshenceindividualswereforcedto providelabourorriskstarvation.Moreinventionsweremadeleadingto unemploymenthencewagesremaineddangerouslylow,with workersgettingbarelysufficientfortheir labour.Dickens criticisesthecreatedclasssystem,postulatingthatitcreatedthemechanicalman,devoidof his humanityandcompassion.Assuch,heproposedsocialdevelopmentto socialism,which would eliminatethegapbetween therichandthepoorthat hadbeencreatedby thecapitalistic systemsadoptedby England.

Resources

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Dickens,Charles. 1854. HardTimes.London: Bradbury, Agnew &amp Co, Ltd

Foster,John, 2005. ClassStruggles and the Industrial Revolution: Early industrial capitalismIn three English town.London: Methuen &ampCo Ltd

Kaminski,J., 2013. Capitalismand Industrial Revolution.Retrieved from http://josephKaminski.net/2013/10/30/capitalism-and-industrial-revolution/

Mikkelsen,Flemming. 1996. Working-class Formation in Europe: In search of asynthesis. Retrieved fromhttp://www.iisg.nl/publications/mikkelse.pdf

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TheAnnenberg, Foundation 2004. DualRevolutions: Capitalists Industrialism and the Nation State.Retrieved fromhttp://www.learner.org/courses/worldhistory/support/reading_19_1.pdf

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