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ADVENT OF CAPITALISM AND IT’S AFTERMATH
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ADVENT OF CAPITALISM AND IT’S AFTERMATH 

(PROF. SAFDAR SANDAL)

In history, the businessmen have played a pivotal role in the life of men. To begin with the early stages of history, the traders used their prowess to undertake hazardous journeys for marketing and selling their merchandise of daily use in territories other than their own. This was a time when means of communication were scanty and the traders faced great hardships in their journeys by going through the looming dangers of loot by dacoits and savage tribes who were always in the lurk. All these difficulties were endured for the obvious reason of getting profits that accrued from their business activity. The profession has always been regarded as a respectable one. An explicit desire on the part of businessmen that existed in the past was that the profits gained should be received by them in the form of gold as gold was considered to be the safest currency that would protect their wealth. The traders and nations by means of collecting gold increased their riches and power. Christopher Columbus used to say that ‘gold is so precious that through it one could buy even the paradise’.

Accumulation of wealth and using the power of it could safely be given the name of ‘Capitalism’. In the ‘Medieval Ages’ this system was called ‘Mercantile Capitalism’. In this process, the traders bought merchandise at cheaper rates from one place and sold them at a higher price in other places, after determining an ‘Exchange Value’ (price) that was available under the circumstances.

Venice Italy

In the ‘Middle Ages’, when the European traders came to India and other parts of Asia, they had, in fact, nothing special to bring with them from Europe and what they did was that they bought cloth, spices, and indigo paid in the form of silver and carried these items to European markets making huge amounts of profit. The merchants of Venice (Italy) called the ‘Princes’ because of their fabulous wealth were famous in this trade.

They carried also warships with them to ward off pirates in the Mediterranean seas. But when there emerged an ‘Industrial Revolution’ in nineteenth-century Europe, the trend of trade also got changed. Now the industrialists produced goods in their factories and sold them at higher prices in other countries of the world. The ‘Industrial Revolution’ in Europe, at one side brought about prosperity among the industrialist class making them opulent and haughty and at the other side created a poor and an obsessed working class whose labour was abused i.e., paid much less than what they deserved. The system now came to be known as ‘ Industrial Capitalism’ , which produced a new strata in society namely the industrialists or capitalists, an upper and a lower middle class and workers termed as ‘ bourgeois’,’ petit-bourgeois’ and the ‘ proletariat’ according to their grades of work. The ‘proletariat’ (working class) was at the fag end. They were made to work for 18 hours consistently and these also included destitute women and children. Conditions of their living were much less than satisfactory. In the colonies of workers, there were no corridors of fresh air, no channels of clean water and no exists of dirty water. All were dumped in one living place which made the life miserable for them. Excess of work, malnutrition and pollution in their environment told upon their health, made them sick and weak. Fatal tuberculosis became the common decease. One could not think of imparting education to their children. Span of their lives squeezed and they fought a battle of survival and as said , ‘horses cannot be fattened in the thick battle’ , same plight was theirs. The battle of haves and have nots was on. The situation presented two opposite features, figuring industrialists who lived a prosperous life and workers who lived an abject life.

A severe repellence against this system came in the form of recurrence of ideologies of Socialism and Communism which had first originated in history with Plato and Aristotle, the Greek philosophers. The works in modern times of ‘Hegel’ advocating an ‘Absolutist State’ , of ‘karl Marx’ and Friedrich Engel, (German thinkers), who propounded communism and a classless society, eliminating bourgeoisie oppression under industrial capitalism. The theories created a social and an economic chaos and left an indelible impact for emergence of countries based on communism like the ‘ Soviet Union’ and a largely allied communist-world, ruled by iron hands of men like “Lenin’ and ‘Stalin’ consecutively, later by Nikita Khrushchev and lastly by ‘Mikhail Gorbachev, who ultimately succumbed to a ‘free market economy’ and lived to bring ‘Soviet Union’ out of the quagmire of communism. The ‘Soviet Union’, one of the duo world powers lived for seventy years before it disappeared from the map of the world. The gloom did not end here, however. The fall of communism saw Russia’s most prized assets sold off to a small circle of business tycoons later known as oligarchs and their control of the state power as ‘oligarchy’. A staggering 35 percent of wealth in Russia is owned by just 110 people. It has the highest level of inequality of wealth in the world. Vladimir Putin and Mikhail Friedman, who made their fortunes in the 90s, are still high on the list of Russia’s richest men.

The Western European countries on the other hand made a stride and achieved a diametrical transformation in the shape of creation of ‘Welfare states’ , providing 100% free education, free medical facilitation, a high standard of living for their citizens without discrimination. In fact every conceivable amenity of life was made available to people. The conditions of work in factories improved dramatically and an ‘International Labour Organisation’ (ILO) was formed under the ‘United Nations Organisation’ charter, which monitored the working conditions of labourers the world over, including prohibition of child labour and a guaranteed provision of all kinds of ‘social welfare’ services to the workers which continued even after they had completed term of their jobs.

The system of a Welfare State as often referred to, had been introduced by Caliph Umar in The Islamic State of the early seventh century AD and has proudly been acclaimed, possessed and practiced by the Scandinavian States of the modern day, too.

Once in Gothenburg (Sweden ), I was invited by a business friend at his home for a dinner. On the way to his home, he pointed to a house which belonged to the manager of his own company . The house looked equally good as was his own , but the interesting part that he told me, was that the net-income of his manager was more than his own income as he had to pay many ‘social welfare taxes ‘ to his government from which the manager enjoyed a holiday. In the end the manager led a more comfortable life than the owner of the company, also because that he had a fixed and high salary with no fear of losses that usually entail a buissness. Later in the evening, I was introduced with the said gentleman too and I realised that the manager really looked happier and financially more sound than my business friend . In case a women employee in the company begot in a family way during her service; she was paid full salary by the employer even when her doctor advised her to stay home with an addition of high allowances also paid for the un-born baby.

In the modern ‘Welfare States’ of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and some others, the social and economic gap among the people has gone down to a minimal level and it is further shrinking. It is undoubtedly an ideal form of any economic system that has so far filtered through the ages and it must be the envy of any country of the modern world to follow and develop accordingly.

 

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