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The Emergence of Market Society

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Published: 23rd Sep 2019 in Economics

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The Emergence of Market Society

This essay will explore the material and ideological conditions of the market. Material conditions of the market will be discussed first following the latter half which will focus on the ideological conditions. Market society is characterized by market conditions, such as the three fictious commodities which construct everything in market society subject to market forces. Having the three fictious commodities in the market allows many markets to differ in a great way from the structures of past social organizations. The essay will also focus on changes that arise in the workplace as technology and complex machinery is introduced. The two developments scientific management and mass production were proposed by Fredrick Taylor and Henry Ford brought scientific change in to the workplace specifically to the way labour was preformed. Ideological conditions will focus on the market society form the world view of people with its connection between “Protestant work ethic” and the “spirit of capitalism”. Ideological conditions play a vibrant role towards the emergence of the market society. These conditions will explain the connection between the two ideas and how they have changed one’s beliefs and values over time.

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Market societies are markets that are the paramount establishment for the exchange of goods through price mechanisms. Market society is characterized by a wide range of industrial elements available in markets; the essential characteristic of a market society is self regulation principal which is only seen in such a society (Polanyi 43). The self regulation principal is a system which is capable of organizing the entire economic lives without an external factor. The  self regulation principal also implies that “all production is for sale on the market and that all incomes derive from such sales” in which he makes clear that almost everything is on sale in the market including the three fictitious commodities which are land, labour and money. (Polanyi 69) The introduction of the three fictious commodities in the market made the emergence of market society significant. Labour earns wages, land earns rent and money earns interest, makes everything in society become subject to market forces. Market forces are the forces which affect the price, demand and availability of a commodity. The market organizes every element of industry into supply and demand groups making price being the main incentive; this is all due to the self regulation of the market. (Polanyi 72) Opposed to decades in the past, today markets do not only consist of commodities with predetermined prices, but now markets have other factors such as supply and demand which also contribute to the prices of all elements of industry including land, labour and money which are now an important aspect of the economic system and the economic flow.

“This change from regulated to self-regulating markets at the end of the eighteenth century represented a complete transformation in the structure of society.” Polanyi refers to this alteration as “the great transformation” (Polanyi 71) The transformation is so significant because all the major changes for the previous social organizations is marked by market societies today. Since, the emergence of market society, what one did was not economically embedded on tradition or command for the first time in history. The two prevalent methods used to solve economic problems were the tradition and command solutions which were very old. (Heilbroner 8) The tradition method, was a mode of social organization in which production and distribution was were based on procedures devised in distant past, which were based off of trial and error, and were upheld by the powerful customs and beliefs. Societies which used the tradition method solved economic problems very manageably. (Heilbroner 8) The command method on the other hand, is the method of imposed authority. It’s a “solution based not so much on the perpetuation of a visible system by the changeless reproduction of its ways as on the organization of a system according to the orders of an economic commander in chief”. (Heilbroner 10) Overall, the command method is basically when the government determines what good should be produced, how much should be produced and the price of good. We then have the market solution which showed doubt in the society amongst the people due to its extraordinary approach. Other, differences between market and the two previous social organizations that stress the importance of this development are that in a market society, people are not compelled to rely on their ancestors to help them determine their economic role as one would do in the tradition method. (Heilbroner 13) No more does any one rely on the government as opposed to people who would do so in the command method. Overall the “main idea of a market society is that each person is allowed to decide for them selves on what to do”. (Heilbroner 13) Therefore, the whole idea of self-regulation in a market society before the emergence in the eighteenth century distressed many people on how the economy will function. The idea of a market society was seen as doubtful and impossible many years ago, which now proves the significance of this development.

Along with the emergence of the market society, there were numerous changes that took place in the workplace. The development of scientific management and production completely restructured production. (Rinehart 39) Scientific management introduced by Frederick Taylor greatly simplified labour since now “the work of the machinist would be subdivided and assigned to several workers” (Rinehart 40) Another effect in the workplace due to scientific management was the “regulation of work, increased specialization of labour, and the assumption of managers on the shop floor knowledge all led to and combined to sharpen the distinction between the planning of work and its execution, thus broadening the gulf between mental and manual labour”. (Rinehart 41) Scientific management made “paid workers to work, not to think” which created a partition of manual and mental labour, as manager were the one who did all the planning and workers did the manual labour. (Rinehart 41) On the other hand mass production was introduced by Henry Ford to establish an efficient use of time and labour and to get things done as soon as possible. There were significant changes with the developments of this technique in the workplace where one person would preform the same task through out the day. Preceding to the emergence of the market society, a employee would use his knowledge of skills to produce a product from step one to the last step, whereas now the idea of mass production, skilled workers are not as valued since now even an unexperienced adult or child is capable of working on an assembly line.

According to Aspects of Economic Rationalism in the West, the author Bendix Richard discusses the relationship between ideological and the emergence of the market society. In this piece of work Bendix elaborates on Weber’s arguments from the book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism in which Weber states that “Puritan ideas had influenced development of capitalism”. (Bendix 50) From the point of view of Weber, the worldview of people within a market society followed the protestant etic of work that was that one’s afterlife is already determined by God if they either enter hell or heaven. Even tough people already had knowledge that there afterlife was already determined, they still wanted to make sure it was a good one and the concept of predestination made them work harder since that was a sign that convinced people one was chosen for this destination and would go to heaven. Believers of Calvinism believed that “men exist for the sake of god,” soon this “eliminated all magical means of attaining salvation” which led them to no longer see the importance in working harder to be Gods chosen ones. (Bendix 58,60) This new mindset led to the rise of capitalism and people began to work hard just for the sake of working hard. The spirit of capitalism is a secularized form of Protestant work ethic and the ideological conditions play a significant role in emerging the market society; since workers did not work for their own enjoyment and pleasure, but rather they considered work as something or a duty they had to complete each day for a better life and a strong future.

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In conclusion, the shift from previous social organizations to market society is a fundamental and important transformation. Earlier, to this emergence of the market society, people were producing products themselves which took a lot more time in comparison to mass production by machines where one machine or person preforms only one task so one product can be made more efficiently and faster. Money can be used to purchase a lot more in a market society including the three commodities land, labour and money which all increase the standard of living. Moreover, people are not compelled to rely on past experiences from their ancestors to determine their economic role in life. One has the right to do what ever they want to do in a market. Overall, this transformation made way for women and children to gain experience in the workplace and people began to work harder for a better living instead of impressing God.

Works Cited

  • Heilbroner, Robert. “The Economic Problem.” The Making of Econodic Societm. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1993. Pp 1-15.
  • Polanyi, Karl. “Societies and Economic Systems,” “The Self-Regulating Market and the Fictitious Commodities: Labour, Land, and Money.” The Great Transfordation. Boston: Beacon Press, 1957. Pp 43-55, 68-75.
  • Rinehart, James W. “Alienation and the Development of Industrial Capitalism in Canada.” “Solutions to Alienated Labour.” The Tmrannm of Work. Toronto: Harcourt Brace, 1996. Pp 23-60, 153-156.
  • Bendix, Richard. “Aspects of Economic Rationality in the West.” Max Weber. New York: Anchor Books, 1962. Pp. 47-79.


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