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Economy and society: Class relations and the process of economic growth

Erik K Olsen, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation presents a Marxian class analytic theory of economic reproduction and growth. The approach developed herein uses social accounting matrices and a simple two-sector growth model to extend the conventional boundary of class theory from the individual site to a group of heterogeneous sites exchanging commodities and money. The growth model is based on Marx's theory of reproduction, which serves as a baseline, but also introduces unproductive labor, distribution among multiple competing groups, technological change, and changes in the rate of exploitation. Several simulations examine the potential effects of these issues on different groups within an aggregate class structure. This aggregate class structure approach is contrasted with other Marxian theories of social development and change, mode of production and social formation theory in particular. The origin and development of the mode of production and social formation approach to social theory is extensively surveyed and critiqued. Particular attention is paid to the social ontology underpinning this approach and to the relationship between this approach and Hegel's philosophy of history. A significant finding of this dissertation is that while the mode of production and social formation approach to social theory attributes a deterministic role to the economy, class analytic Marxian economic theory finds no support for this thesis and instead indicates that economic and non-economic factors reciprocally condition, and indeed constitute, one another.

Subject Area

Economic theory

Recommended Citation

Olsen, Erik K, "Economy and society: Class relations and the process of economic growth" (2005). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3193931.