Schools of Thought in Economics
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 14: Non-Marxian socialist ideas in Britain and the United States
The non-Marxian socialist political economies of Britain and the United States represent rich and multifaceted traditions of economic thinking. These had their origins in what it is now unfashionable to term the industrial revolution but which was, by any standards, a period of profound economic and social change. In Britain the first three decades of the nineteenth century saw the proportion of the population involved in manufacture, mining and industry rise from 29.7 per cent to 40.8 per cent and from 1.3 million to 3 million. The socialist political economies which emerged in Britain can be seen as a response to these developments that in consequence saw a working population increasingly exposed to the vagaries of market forces. For these were political economies which sought to elucidate the causes of impoverishment, as labour was increasingly commodified, and of economic crises, as it was rendered periodically redundant and which sought to establish too the lineaments of a different economic and social order from which impoverishment and instability had been removed and where the principles of liberty, equality and fellowship prevailed. In Britain the most potent strand of socialist political economy was that of communitarianism, to which the key contributors were Robert Owen (1771–1858), William Thompson (1775–1833), John Francis Bray (1809–97) and John Gray (1799–1883); writers whose works furnished both a critique of contemporary capitalism, while articulating the principles and practice of those co-operative communities which, by their example, would effect the transition to a new moral world.
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