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Poverty In Britain: From Feudalism To Neoliberal Capitalism

The sixteenth century saw the beginnings of capitalism in England. The capitalist relation—employers buying labour and workers selling their labour power in exchange for wages—more and more became the norm looked upon by the upper classes as, among other things, the solution to the growing problem of poverty and vagabondage. Certainly charity was offered to the poor. But the poverty of the destitute was held to be their own fault. Therefore, accompanying such charity, a series of Tudor parliamentary statutes including the comprehensive Statute of Apprentices of 1563 forced those without property to find work rather than to remain idle.

Capitalism’s Worst Nightmare

On this week's show, Prof. Wolff explores what major social changes will flow from today's combination of major economic crash and the viral pandemic (capitalism's worst nightmare). To answer, we consider how European feudalism changed after its 14th century combination of economic decline and the bubonic plague. The two big changes then were (1) switching from a decentralized to a strong state, monarchical feudalism and (2) transition from feudalism to capitalism. The two big parallel changes now are...

The Black Death Killed Feudalism. What Does COVID-19 Mean For Capitalism?

You pay little attention to the systems of your body — circulatory, digestive, pulmonary — unless something goes wrong. These automatic systems ordinarily go about their business, like unseen clockwork, while you think about a vexing problem at work, drink your morning cup of coffee, walk up and downstairs, and head out to your car to begin your morning commute. If you had to focus your attention on breathing, pushing blood through your veins, and metabolizing food, you’d have no time or energy to do anything else. The body abhors the micromanaging of the mind. The same applies to the world’s markets. They whir away in the background of your life, providing loans to your business, coffee beans to your nearby supermarket, labor to build your house, gas to fill your car.
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