Primitive Accumulation of Capital

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The core question is how did it happen that a small percentage of the population obtained possession of the necessary resources to start businesses which employ people and gain profit; and analyzing how it happened that the vast majority of the population, came to be in the condition of having no sources of self-sustainment and having therefore to survive by selling their labor for a living wage.

James Steuart and other classical political economists, argued instead for a crucial role for the state in the origin of capitalism, holding that violence under the supervision of the state was needed in order for the original accumulation to occur.

David Harvey summarized Karl Marx description of it: primitive accumulation "entailed taking land, say, enclosing it, and expelling a resident population to create a landless proletariat, and then releasing the land into the privatized mainstream of capital accumulation".

Marx showed in Das Kapital how "money is changed into capital" and "how capital generates surplus-value" forming more capital. But in doing so, he had already assumed that there exists a mass of Capital available for investment, and there already exists exploitable labour power. He had shown how capitalist production could itself reproduce the conditions of its own existence on an ever broader scale. But, as he says, "the whole movement seems to turn into a vicious circle."