By Aaron J. Howell, Assistant Professor of Sociology, SUNY-Farmingdale
In some introductory sociology classes and in any classical sociological theory course, students grapple with the ways in which capitalist society reproduces itself. This was an especially pertinent social and political question outside of the classroom during the early industrial revolution of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when the relationship between capital and labor animated political conflict.
A variety of scholars observing the emerging capitalist economic system wondered how a system introducing private property, and the inequities that inevitably derive from private control of resources, could survive.
These scholars spanned the political spectrum from philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who was concerned with the ways that privatization might undermine the "general will" to Sir Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism, who feared that individualism and cronyism might go unchecked, to Karl Marx, a political radical, who argued that the capitalist system was inherently inhumane due to its alienating conditions.