Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 12 No. 4 (Fall 1998)


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The Historical Background of the Communist Manifesto

Article Citation

Boyer, George R. 1998. "The Historical Background of the Communist Manifesto." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 12(4): 151-174.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.12.4.151


This paper attempts to place the economic analysis of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels's Communist Manifesto in historical perspective. The author begins by summarizing the analysis of capitalist economic development in the Manifesto, and showing how it was strongly influenced by developments in the cotton industry in Manchester, England. He then examines the economic, social, and political conditions in Manchester and the surrounding cotton towns during the 1830s and 1840s, drawing on the views of contemporary observers and recent research by economic historians. The paper concludes by discussing why Marx and Engels's predictions for the imminent collapse of capitalism were wrong.

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Boyer, George R. (Cornell U)

JEL Classifications

B14: History of Thought through 1925: Socialist; Marxist
B31: History of Thought: Individuals


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