What is economic determinism? Definition and examples

Economic determinism is a socioeconomic concept that market forces determine all political and social change. It is a concept that economic relationships are the foundation upon which every arrangement in our society is based. The term ‘economic relationships’ refers to, for example, whether you are a capitalist or worker.

Market forces, in this context, refers to the forces of demand and supply. Demand represents how much people want something, which may be either a service or a product. For example, if something sells well, demand for it is high. Supply refers to satisfying that demand, i.e., providing that ‘something’ that people want.

Put simply; it is a belief that the determinants of social and political change are economic forces. Economic forces, in this context, means the same as market forces.

Wikipedia has the following definition of the term:

“Economic determinism is a socioeconomic theory that economic relationships are the foundation upon which all other social and political arrangements in society are based.”

“The theory stresses that societies are divided into competing economic classes whose relative political power is determined by the nature of the economic system.”

Economic determinism
Collins Dictionary says the following about economic determinism: “A doctrine that states that all cultural, social, political, and intellectual activities are a product of the economic organization of society.”

Economic determinism – Karl Marx

Karl Marx championed the theory that economic relationships determine all other political and social arrangements. That theory is economic determinism, say many economists.

Mark (1818-1883) was a German economist, historian, political theorist, sociologist, and revolutionary socialist. He wrote the 1848 pamphlet, ‘The Communist Manifesto,’ as well as the foundational theoretical text, ‘Das Kapital.’

Some economists claim that Marx was an economic determinist while others insist that this was not the case.

People who associate Marxism with economic determinism say that Marx emphasized how the proletariat was locked in a class struggle. This struggle was with the capitalist class. People would eventually overthrow the capitalist class.

Followers of Marxism say that economic determinism is a form of ‘economism‘ or ‘vulgar Marxism.’ They say that Marx’ works have nothing to do with economic determinism.

Thomas P.M. Barnett, in his book ‘The Pentagon’s New Map,’ describes himself as an economic determinist. Barnett is an American military geostrategist. He was once Chief Analyst at Wikistrat, a US-based geostrategic analysis and business consultancy.