William Thompson

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Thompson, William


Born circa 1785, in Rosscarbery; died Mar. 28,1833, in Clounksen. Irish sociologist and economist.

Thompson was a Utopian socialist and a follower of R. Owen. An adherent of D. Ricardo’s labor theory of value, he was a vehement critic of capitalism. In opposition to the existing social system, Thompson proposed his own humanistic ideal. He defined capitalism as “institutions of insecurity” based on the dominance of capital, exploitation, social humiliation, and the bondage of the proletariat. The workers’ exploitation was, in his view, a result of the bitter struggle between owners and producers. In Thompson’s words, “The greater the profits from capital—other circumstances being equal—the lower must wages be” (Untersuchung über die Grundsätze der für das menschliche Glück gunstigen Verteilung des Reichtums, vol. 1, Berlin, 1903, p. 407).

Proposing a population theory that differed from that of T. R. Malthus, Thompson held that in the process of economic development human reproduction is increasingly subject to the control of reason, and that absolute population growth is accompanied by a relative population decrease as compared to total available resources. Thompson brought to light the conflict between the productive forces and capitalist accumulation and distribution—a conflict that determines the limits of development of capitalist production. While he stressed the idea that “social capital” would inevitably pass into the workers’ hands, Thompson mistakenly believed that this could be brought about by peaceful means and without abolishing private property.


An Inquiry Into the Principles of the Distribution of Wealth. London, 1824.
Labor Rewarded. London, 1827.
Practical Directions for the Establishment of Communities. London, 1830.


Marx, K., and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vols. 4, 23, 24, and 46, part 2.
Fal’kner, S. A. Proiskhozhdenie zheleznogo zakona zarabotnoiplaty, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1925.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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