Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Theory of Class Conflict Began Before Marx

By Murray Rothbard

The theory of class conflict as a key to political history did not begin with Karl Marx. It began, as we shall see further below, with two leading French libertarians inspired by J.B. Say, Charles Comte (Say's son-in-law), and Charles Dunoyer, in the 1810s after the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy. In contrast to the later Marxist degeneration of class theory, the Comte-Dunoyer view held the inherent class struggle to focus on which classes managed to gain control of the state apparatus. The ruling class is whichever group has managed to seize state power; the ruled are those groups who are taxed and regulated by those in command. Class interest, then, is defined as a group's relation to the state. State rule, with its taxation and exercise of power, controls, and conferring of subsidies and privileges, is the instrument that creates conflicts between the rulers and the ruled. What we have, then, is a "two-class" theory of class conflict, based on whether a group rules or is ruled by the state. On the free market, on the other hand, there is no class conflict, but a harmony of interest between all individuals in society cooperating in and through production and exchange.

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