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The Beginnings of Capitalism in Central Europe

Edited By Cyril Levitt

This book focuses on the beginnings of capitalism in Central Europe with emphasis on the German-speaking areas from the 14th to the 17th century. It also reviews and assesses the writings on the topic by the most important thinkers of the twentieth century. At the center of the presentation are the developments in mining, metallurgy, smelting, book publishing, clock making, ship building and advances in trade, commerce and finance. This book will be of interest to students of medieval and early modern European history, the so-called transition debate of feudalism to capitalism, social scientists and historians who are interested in the various transitions in human history, and philosophers who follow developments in the changing issues regarding freedom and bondage over the course of human development. Anthropologists who are familiar with Krader’s writings on the development of the Asiatic mode of production will be interested to see how Krader treats this transition from feudalism to capitalism by way of comparison and contrast.

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Chapter Four Machines, Mechanics, Time and Geometry

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Machines, Mechanics, Time and Geometry

The machine is a tool, but not all tools are machines. The bodily organs of humans and animals are tools, or they can serve as tools in the process of labour, but they are not machines. Thus, the answer concerning the nature of machines can be answered in the negative: in the past, people tried to consider organs and bodies as machines; yet this way and means of looking at machines essentially fell into disuse. Machines and machinery are those tools which do not consist of muscles and bones of living beings. A machine is set into motion through muscle power as well as through other natural forces, wind, water, gravity, steam and heat, electricity, electromagnetism, organic and inorganic forces, atomic energy and so on. The machine is principally defined as a tool whose components can be distinguished from the driving forces which move it. The lever, the wedge and the inclined plane, the crane and the various mills, like the peddle, water, and windmill; the wheel in its various kinds, like the water, peddle and spinning wheel, then the wagon, the hammer, the knife, the nail, the pulley, the gate, the scale, the chain, the rope, the bellows and the smelter are called machines. If the component parts of the tool in general do not or cannot be distinguished from its driving force [Triebkraft] and moving force [Bewegungskraft], and further, if both forces are also indistinguishable from one another, thus it is not at all or only with difficulty recognized as a machine. In the 17th century a mechanical worldview prevailed.1 We direct attention to the fact that mechanics and the mechanical were differently conceptualized ←155 | 156→in the 17th century than in the 20th. That the differences which are rooted here were insufficiently perceived explains in part the conceptual difficulties of the mechanistic worldview of the 17th century. The theory of the tool as a projection of the organ also has great difficulties but it has the one advantage in that it differentiates the projections of the organs from the driving force. The hand as an organ is different from the hammer, which counts as a projection of the fist, and does not serve as the hammer itself. The theory of technics as the projection of human organs—as, for example, the hand or a part of it, like the fingernails, was discussed by Ernst Kapp. His conception is one of the basic components of the modern theory of technics. We concern ourselves primarily with the tasks and ideas in the matter of technics in the 15th and 16th century.

The component parts of the machine are simple, like the wedge, which counts as machina simplex, or it is assembled out of many parts and is called machina composita. The complicated machines arise out of the simpler ones. Machines are also to be distinguished in another sense, namely, those which are not physically separated from the driving or moving force and those which are outfitted with an independent driving force or force of movement. The machine which is set into motion can be distinguished from the stationary machine. The movable machine has the means to eliminate the friction of the entire tool, to minimize or to overcome it: to wit by means of the wheel, the pulley, gravity and of electromagnetic or chemical means. Oil, fat, and lubricant were introduced to reduce or master the effect of friction. Theoretical mastery of the principles of statics in mechanics was in the past the basis of implementation, for the creation, for activating or actuating the machines; now, however, the principles of dynamics like thermodynamics, electrodynamics, aerodynamics, quantum dynamics and so on are applied.

Stationary machines are distinguished from portable ones. The stationary machine has a driving force, which sets it in motion, like the hand does the pulley, and heat, the oven. These machines are driven, but not moved. A cart which is set into motion is a machine. The complicated machines of the stationary sort are called abstract machinery, industry and even large-scale industry like in chemical factories. The mechanism is two-fold: the abstract principle and the concrete tool. The abstract instrument of labour is not a machine, yet it can well express the principle of the same.

The driving force is conceptualized as a motor, which sets in motion the machine in the mine, the ship and the wheel. Human and animal muscles, wind and water were the major driving forces of transport in the 15th and 16th century. Heat, chemical forces in general and gravity were now employed for the activation of stationary machines, for the furnaces in glass manufacturing, in the smelters, ←156 | 157→in the salt works or in the assaying arts. Wheels and the moving force for such furnaces are likewise parts of the stationary machine.

These principal observations are not only valid for the entirety of machines and the treatment of machines in the 20th century, but also for those in earlier epochs—of the 15th and 16th century—albeit there abstracted from the dynamic, that is, thermodynamic, aerodynamic, electrodynamic and other principles. Aerodynamics was in the earlier epochs implicit in the weather machine and in the bellows, thermodynamics in the bloomery furnace [Blähofen (Blau—or Blasofen)], and the force of gravity was empirically applied in the art of hay drying. The sailboat, the mechanical clock, the water wheel and the weather machine also possess the principles of dynamics—in part empirically through experience, in part abstractly conceived and practically treated. Through the practical application of mechanical and chemical principles in the process of labour, the transition from the earlier epochs of modernity was formed primarily into that of the industrial revolution and high capitalism.

Artistry is also of two kinds: it is either a kind of machine, like the rag and chain pump in mining, or the way and means of how a machine is set to operate or to be put in motion, and how it is applied in the process of labour. Technics is artistry in a second sense. A mechanism can be distinguished from the machine in that this is a tool from which the God descends deus ex machina in classical tragedy. The machine in modern times is increasingly less set into operation by human and animal muscle power, and increasingly more through the application of mechanical and chemical laws.

The mechanism in opposition to the machine can be considered as that object—including the tool and the instrument of labour—which is put into service or set in motion through the application of mechanical laws. The driving force or moving force can be mastered by men—they can introduce them and turn them off as well. The concept of mechanical laws and of their effectiveness is changed in the course of history. The laws of mechanics laid out in the 15th and 16th century, are different than those in the 20th century. Nevertheless, we shall understand the concept of mechanism as the object which is put into service or set in motion through the application of mechanical laws. The concept of mechanism is thus related to the object as to the process of operation and of movement. In the past the laws of celestial mechanics were conceived as absolute and their scope as eternal.2 Man as microcosm possesses the force of motion of muscles, nerves and bones; the universe as macrocosm possesses the force of motion of gravity. These forces are the natural characteristics of the material word. Albrecht Dürer distinguished geometry from mechanics. Isaac Newton made the same distinction 150 years later.

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Mechanics was in this sense practical and illiberal. Now, however, it is conceived of as practical and theoretical, liberal and illiberal. In the 17th century the universe was considered as a machine, as the theatrum machinarum or as the showplace of machinery and of the mechanics of the heavens. Their laws were geometrical, necessary, introduced in accord with strict evidence. The physicists and mathematicians showed that the mechanism of the universe, of the heavenly bodies and of space, ran continuously and without limit. By this means they solved the problem of the perpetuum mobile, in theory and in practice. The movement of the heavens continued ad infinitum. Herewith the concepts perpetuitas and continuity are related to the world machine.

In 1525 Albrecht Dürer in his Unterweisung der Messung [Instructions in Measurement] presented this artistry for the workman, the painter, the goldsmith, the sculptor, the stone mason, the carpenter, The art lover, the highly intelligent and the youth. In this book, Dürer asserted: “The highly astute Euclid had put together the foundation of geometry. Whoever understands it well, has no need whatsoever for the following described matter.” He presented the distinction between geometry and mechanics in the following way: to demonstratively grasp artistry means to grasp it exactly. In this sense he wrote: “As soon as I want to deconstruct a hendecagon in the circle, I take a quarter of the circle’s diameter and obtain eight equal parts of it itself, and move with this length around the circle; if it happens coincidentally then it is found mechanice but not demonstrative. Further, if I should make with agility a 13-sided figure thus I tear out of a centre a circular line. Afterwards, I tear out a half diameter.a.b. and cut it with a point.d. from one another in the middle and use the lengths.e.d. thirteen times around the circle. It is however also mechanice and not demonstrative.”3

We have already seen that Hartmann Schopper in his edition of the Ständebuch of 1574 De Omnibus Illiberalibus sive Mechanicus Artibus, that is, had written “about all illiberal or mechanical arts.” Geometry belongs to the liberal, mechanics to the illiberal arts. The mechanical arts were also called sedentaria.4 Dürer treated both arts, the liberal and illiberal, and he mastered the difference between geometry and mechanics and the concept of geometric proof. He wrote: “Three kinds of things can be measured. First, a length that has neither width nor thickness, then a length that has width and thickness. These both begin and end with a point. But a point is a thing that has neither size, length, width nor thickness, which can be made or which we can conceive in our senses.” “And thus, a point occupies no space, for it is indivisible. And from mind or thought it may be placed at any end or location.” “Now when this point from its first beginning is extended, it is thus called a line.”5 After Dürer had defined the point and the line geometrically and differentiated them from their pictorial treatment, he presented the straight ←158 | 159→line and circle line, the wavy line and helical line, the solid or cube and the ball or sphere. In this way he distinguished the idea of the object in the mind from the corporeal manipulation of it. The former way of treatment is geometrical, the latter mechanical. Mechanical means nimble, agile, fleet as well as without spirit, thought or feeling. Point, line, magnitude, length, width, thickness are not corporeal things which can be produced by hand. The point is a thing, that one can conjure in the mind. It is indivisible and occupies no space. The relationship between indivisibility and inextensibility of the point appeared in the geometrical thinking of G. W. Leibniz 150 years, and in the mathematical system of H. Grassmann, 320 years after Dürer. C. F. Gauss had introduced the difference between the two kinds of research of space at the beginning of the 19th century. Space in external nature is to be conceived differently than space in the mind. 300 years earlier, Dürer had so presented the concept of space that the point, which was demonstratively conjured, is presented differently than the point which is mechanically treated. A system derived from this was published by G. T. Fechner as well in the 19th century. Dürer expressed himself further in this regard: “For I may with my mind throw a point high into the air or let it fall into the depths, however I cannot reach it with my body.” To treat the point geometrically or pictorially or mechanically, these are two tasks that are different from one another. Now Dürer traced back and grounded the mechanical labour of the workman on the geometric idea. That which the cabinet maker, carpenter or architect makes is already outlined in the mind; yet in the mind one can sketch the outline exactly, with the hand only approximately. Dürer said, the master has mastered the rules of the art, and with his tool creates the table, the house or the picture in practice. Marx said, the architect, no matter how poor he may be, has the house in his head and then builds it with his hands. Dürer means the right workman has learned and mastered the art of measurement and then mechanically works it out. These thoughts agree with one another.

Dürer studied in Italy and took over the laws of perspective from Filippo Brunelleschi. Dürer’s theory is different from that of the Italian masters. Leone Battista Alberti identified the laws of perspective and pictured them in conjunction with his demontrationes.6 Yet, as Panofsky says, these demonstrationes were in no way models of geometric processes, but rather actual pictures.7 Dürer presented practical manual labour mechanice, and the theoretical labour demonstrative. The line is invisible and is understood in the mind [Gemüt] through the straight cleft. “For by such a means the inner understanding must be shown in the external work.” The purpose of Dürer’s work is not mathematical education in theory, but rather the practical instruction in measurement, so that what appears before one’s eyes would be better understood in order to improve craftsmanship.

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Dürer’s theory of mechanics appears in the following century in Newton: “The ancients held Mechanics (according to Pappus’s statements), to be very important for the study of nature, and the moderns, after abandoning substantial forms and hidden characteristics, have begun to trace the appearances of nature back to mathematical laws. It appeared appropriate in the given work, Mathematics, to carry it to the point that it relates to Physics. The ancients presented mechanics in a two-fold way, as rational, which moves forward with exactitude by means of evidence, and as something practical. To the latter belong all manual skills from which the name mechanics is derived. Since, however, artists are not used to working exactly, mechanics and geometry can be distinguished to the degree that everything exact counts as geometry, everything less exact to mechanics. The errors committed should not however be ascribed to the art, but rather to the artists. Whosoever works in a less exact manner, is an imperfect mechanic; on the contrary, whoever can work in the most exact way would be the most accomplished of all mechanics.”8 The development of this line of thought reaches out from Dürer over Kepler, to Galilei and Newton. We have already pointed to Dürer’s relationship to the Italians and to Euclid.

The perfect mechanic created the universe according to this idea. In the 17th century, this creator was called God or nature. Celestial mechanics was presented as complete, adequate, exact and accurate. Errors and mistakes arose from the thoughts of men, of the physicists and mathematicians like Galileo Galilei, Descartes and Newton, whose method did not suffice and was not strong enough, to present the effect of God or of nature. Our geometry and mechanics, the science of space and of the movement of natural bodies are not the same things. The preparation for this idea is already present in Dürer, Gauss and Newton.

Ernst Mach defined mechanics in the following way: The investigation of motion and of the balance of masses leads to the name mechanics. According to Herbert Goldstein the object of classical mechanics is the investigation of the motion of material bodies. With regard to Dürer’s and Newton’s concept of mechanics, we have already spoken. Kant traced the mechanical philosophy back to the simple elements or physical atoms. He wrote in this connection: “The way of explanation of the specific diversity of materials through the quality and composition of their smallest parts, as machines, is the mechanical philosophy.” Machines are the simple tools of external self-moving forces.9

Dürer conceived mechanics practically, geometry theoretically, as the basis for the practical activity of man. Leonardo da Vinci compared the arts of poetry and painting in his diaries. It was said that painting is a mechanical art in a double sense: first, because the painter works with his hands, in order to bring out the creations of his mind and second, because the artistic creations are sold for ←160 | 161→money. The works of a painter on copper will take longer to produce than poetry. Leonardo honoured mechanics as the paradise of the mathematical sciences, as he said, because through it the harvest of mathematics is achieved. He did not consider the world as a machine, but rather as a living being. Mechanical force has an active not a corporeal life. We cannot see this force, and it is not accessible to the other senses.10

Galileo Galilei had said that numerals are the language of nature. Descartes wrote nature is not a Goddess, but rather nothing other than matter. Spinoza expressed himself: Deus sive natura, God or nature; he did not exactly write: aut Deus aut natura—either God or nature. While Galilei wanted to comprehend nature through numbers, Descartes and Leibniz had attempted to explain the world as a machine.

Mechanics and mechanism in the workshop were already developed in antiquity. The laws of statics in mechanics were worked out by Archimedes and in modern times by S. Stevin in Holland. Mathematics and mechanics are not the same and were conceived in the 17th century as the same neither in extent nor in method. In the 20th century some researchers conceived rational mechanics as an aspect of mathematics. In the 17th century this assertion was given prominence as a problem. Galilei had shown that the laws of celestial mechanics—those of statics and dynamics—were the same as the earthly laws. Newton ascertained that the laws of gravity were the same in both areas. The motion of the heavenly bodies could be calculated if it were assumed that geometry for this region is complete, the circles perfect, the lines absolutely straight, and so on. In the empirical-terrestrial sphere everything is inexact. Not only our thoughts, but rather in addition the instruments and mathematical calculations of the genial thinkers are weak. Thinkers from Dürer to Gauss had determined that the point in mind and the point circumscribed with the feather are not the same objects. Mechanics is thus not simple, but rather multiple and complicated. Newton drew the conclusion, and Dürer problematized the concept of mechanics.

Some thinkers were convinced that the world is a machine; the human body is according to the same conception a world machine writ small, hence a microcosm.11 Technics and science are aspects of the labour process. The relation between parts and whole is seldom an object of research. Our task is not to examine this relation in general, but rather in a determinate area and in one period as a contribution to the problem of periodization.

In the 17th century progress was made in the practical analysis of the vacuum. Otto von Guericke had developed a vacuum pump. J. B. van Helmont had researched water, steam and gas; he had analysed the concept of gas as chaos and derived the word gas from chaos. Weight exerted pressure on the body and air ←161 | 162→pressure can be measured. Van Helmont had brought out a corpuscular theory of air. According to his conception, air had small pores, like skin, and these pores supposedly contain foreign particles as well, like a gas, which in turn is conceived of in terms of corpuscles. Between the corpuscles and the particles air is supposedly empty. These corpuscles are also referred to as atoms.12 Evangelisto Torricelli, Galileo Galilei, van Helmont and Blaise Pascal contributed to the theory of the vacuum and of air in connection with the development of aerostatics and aerodynamics. The instruments for the examination of the vacuum were suction tubes, gas bottles and glass tubes filled with mercury. The chemical property of mercury—it is a metal and at the temperature of the human body is not hard and solid like the other metals, iron, copper and so on, but rather liquid—was fundamental for their experiments. The vacuum was in theory presented in relation to the concept of the ether. In the 16th and 17th century, the suction power of the tube and capillarity, then the action of sprinklers and pumps and that of the fluids, like that of water, were observed and explained through nature’s abhorrence of a void, called horror vacui. This horror vacui can be comprehended emotionally or as a personification of nature. Galileo Galilei interpreted it neither as an emotion nor as a personification of nature, but rather considered it as the resistenza del vacuo, as the force of resistance like the other natural forces, gravity and so on. He thought the resistance of the vacuum is a measurable force, and he sought to accomplish these kinds of measurements with a sealed column of water with a boot pump. The attempts were unsuccessful because the theoretical conceptions like the altezza limitatissima, the limiting height or the highest limiting value of the water which determined the upper limit of value for the resistance, were faulty. His instruments were not suitable for the practice. Torricelli had the notion of the resistance of the vacuum, but did not assume that of the altezza limitatissima, and instead of raising the water above 18 Italian Ells, he carried out experiments with mercury in a glass tube about a meter in length. In this way he came upon the theory and practice of measuring air pressure, which is fundamental for the assembly of the modern barometer. Blaise Pascal later wrote about the weight of air and further—through mountain experiments among others—developed the barometer as well as its theory.

Subsequently Otto von Guericke conducted experiments in the field of aerostatics. In antiquity, the air together with earth, water, and fire were understood as one of the four elements of nature. In the 16th and 17th century as well this conception of nature was propagated by Agricola, for example. Guericke did not consider air as an element but rather as the scent of bodies. Air is thus not a primitive or original in nature, that which constitutes a characteristic of the element, but rather that which is derived from corporeal being. Air has the characteristic of compressibility and in general of the change in volume through heating, which ←162 | 163→is ascertained by means of a rise in temperature and through the reduction of heat. He created the vacuum by pumping out a water-filled vessel. He conducted further experiments in relation to the air vacuum by enclosing a small water-filled wooden barrel in a larger one; he pumped out the water from the smaller into the larger and observed that here, too, the water flowed back into the smaller one. He took a large hollow copper ball and further a glass ball into his experiment for he could observe that the wooden barrel was leaky. On this basis he showed that air had a pressure which could be measured. The pressure is not constant but rather variable; it varies according to the warmth or coldness of the air. Air has weight which changes according to temperature and pressure. These experiments by Galileo Galilei, Evangelista Torricelli, Blaise Pascal and Otto von Guericke were expressed and summarized quantitatively in Robert Boyle’s law and later by Mariotte. Further, Guericke tore apart a ball consisting of two composite halves first pumped empty with a great bang by the force of 16 horses.13

Mechanism can be understood concretely or abstractly. Concretely mechanism appears as an automaton materiale, as something material, physical, palpable.14 In abstracto, mechanism is to be understood as the effect of the laws of mechanics. These laws are not formulated today in the same sense as in the past, and in the future, they will probably change once again. To interpret the world as a machine or as a mechanism is a consequence of reverie. This way of thinking was taken up enthusiastically by means of the victory of machines developed in the early capitalist period and of their principles, and thus one tried to explain everything mechanically at that time.

4.1 Mechanical Clocks and the Consciousness of Time

4.1.1 Mechanical Clocks

Mechanics, the machine and mechanism have their connections to the theory of geometry, to the philosophy of nature, to the mechanization of the worldview, to the development of physical theory and to the practice in the workshop. The development of the mechanical clock in the late Middle Ages and in early modernity is bound up with the theory and practice of mechanics and with the transformation of the concept of time, of the measurement of time and of the consciousness of time. It was already common in antiquity to divide the day into twenty-four hours.15 Some machines like the sundial, sand clock and water clock were already invented for the measurement of time. The calendar or reckoning in years, months, ←163 | 164→days and parts thereof is documented among almost all peoples. The concept of a particular length of time, large or small, and the division of the same into smaller or larger parts has a written history in the Near and Far East, in Central America, in Europe and in South Asia.

Mechanization of the measurement of time in Europe during the late Middle Ages was introduced by many guilds and by artisan activities. In the Divina Commedia Dante mentioned the chiming clock. It is probable that a mechanical clock was conceived abstractly and outlined in the 12th/13th century. Mechanical clocks in the 14th and 15th century were both large and small; the large ones were tower, cathedral and wall clocks. The small ones were pocket watches which could be carried with one. Both kinds of clocks point to the wealth of the towns or of the persons who could acquire them for themselves. They immediately became an object of social status. Towns in Europe were proud of their clock towers; individuals were proud of their watches. In the 15th century this was made palpable in the name Nuremberg’s egg or little egg [Eierlein], perhaps mistakenly through the mix-up with the word Ührlein [little clock]. Mechanism, town ornaments or body adornment, and the growing consciousness of time were bound up with one another. We won’t pursue the competition concerning the invention of the mechanical clock or of the little egg of Nuremberg, which became a matter of honour. As well, there was speculation and conflict concerning the function of the early mechanical clocks, whether the hour was numbered or struck in the cloister or Church or in the town, whether in the service of labour, of the observatory, of prayer and so on.

As soon as the mechanical clock was developed, many European towns adopted them. The clock towers and cathedral clocks were assembled in the cities and cloisters in England across Europe to the Adriatic coast. Wealthy citizens and rich churches paid handsomely for them.

The mechanical problem of the measurement of time, namely the maintenance, storage and regulated release [Freisetzung (detent)] of mechanical force, was solved early. The storage and release of force was concentrated and regulated in the mechanical clock. These arts, so it was thought, were all practiced by guilds of metal workers. Metal workers in the 14th century constructed wheel clocks which resulted in the production of highly artistic clocks. Their gear trains were similar to the open winches. In the 16th century mechanical clocks were miniaturized by the metal guilds and transformed into pocket and dress watches.16

Christian Huygens invented a pendulum clock and the escape wheel for the clock in the 17th century. It was ascertained in the Netherlands that the clockwork escape mechanism had a connection to the construction of the late medieval crossbow. The cathedral and castle clocks in Salisbury and Dover in England were not ←164 | 165→manufactured by makers of the crossbow; however, in Cologne, Aachen, Arnheim, Wesel, Bruges, Deventer, Gand, Leiden, Nijmegen, Rotterdam and Zutphen, the arbalest makers were brought in to fabricate, regulate and repair mechanical clocks. They built the clocks at Ragusa and Lille. It can be observed that the bolt nut of the arbalest and the clockwork escape mechanism are similar to one another if not exactly identical. The semicirculus or the half-circle shaped escape mechanism of the clock and the bolt nut of the arbalest are homologous creations. Leonardo da Vinci and Richard von Wallingford sketched the cross-shaped escape mechanism of the clock according to the template of the homologous part of the arbalest. The opposite direction of the process of thought is not excluded. In both cases there is a close connection between the artistry of arbalest making and that of the clock.17 The mechanical clock in Milan was built with a weight pull, hence with a different principle than that of the arbalest. Up until now over 50 great mechanical clocks were found in Europe dating from the 14th and 15th century.18 The most well-known public clocks of the 14th and 15th century are shown in Table 6.

Table 6: Mechanical Clocks in Europe in the 14th and 15th Centuries


          14th Century

        15th Century







Dover Castle St. Albans

Glastonbury Salisbury



Chartres Lille Perpignon

Cluny Lyon Rouen

Dijon Paris


Germany (or in the German-speaking World)

Aachen Nuremberg

Breslau Stralsund

Cologne Strassburg

Frankfurt am Main Wesel Munich

Danzig Magdeburg

Hildesheim Villingen

Jena Worms



Bologna Milan

Ferrara Padua

Genoa Parma



Arnheim Ghent Rotterdam

Brugge Leiden Zutphen

Deventer Nijmegen

Sicily (or Dalmatia)







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It is probable that further investigation will discover still more clocks of this sort. For time measurement sundials are more exact than mechanical clocks, but they count only the sunny hours. Classical and the most recent research on the reciprocal interaction between the workshop and the science of chronometry have referred to this topic. The gear wheel was applied in the development and construction of the clock, of the water mill in mining as well as in the processing of grain.19

The small clock or egg of Nuremberg originated in Nuremberg, from which the pocket watch was developed. It exhibits the same characteristics as that of the tower clock, namely, the mastering of the useful labour process required for the manufacture of the clocks, for the origin of the consciousness of time, for the wealth that is required for the creation, origination or purchase of the clock and its repair, and interest in the civic or personal aesthetic, that is, the clock tower or the egg as ornamentation. In this sense, Hamburg, like other cities in Europe as well, had commissioned an instrument for civic ornamentation in the 15th century, which exhibits the same principles of the Church and City Hall clocks.

The day was divided into hours, the hours into minutes, the minutes into small fractions. The measurement of time in the 15th century was accomplished approximately as it was in the 19th and 20th century. The gear wheels of wood were created for the great clock of Nuremberg in the 15th century. The principle of exact time measurement was instituted in a practical way by the spatial shift of the gear wheels. The counting of the submultiples of minutes was reckoned by the number of expired “teeth” of the clockwork. The relation between space and time as well as the reciprocal action of the measurement of space and time was already conceived in the 15th century. The precision of this measurement of seconds was traced back to the principle of the clock; that is, the clock is the optical-spatial translation of the movement of time, of experience, of the counting up and of the consciousness of the passage of time, as well as of the motions of the celestial bodies and of life. They were not only counted up in hours, minutes and seconds by the clock but were also visible and made audible by the bells. The arts of time, space and arithmetic are bound up with the metal, wood, glass and other industries and arts. This assumes the idea that time was valued in general and, further, that a particular value was placed on the exact reckoning of the units and the extent of the course of time. The time of the living being, and the time of inorganic bodies, is the same. The mechanization of the worldview, the measurement of the weight of commodities of grain, oil, metal, wood, meat, leather, salt, wine and beer, geometry, the arts of arithmetic and stereometry in the practice of merchants and likewise in pharmaceuticals and astronomy and finally chronometry were elaborated together.

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The principle of mechanization is not one and the same in the course of history. Archimedes principle was changed in the course of development in modern times by Leonardo, Stevin, Newton, Gauss and Einstein. Statics was based on four principles from Archimedes down to the epoch of Stevin and Galileo: the principle of the gear, of the inclined plane, of the composition (parallelogram) of forces and that of the virtual displacements in the actions of machines. Only in the 16th and 17th century were the two last-named principles of statics given expression by Stevin and Galileo. Galileo and Newton had founded and developed the other department of mechanics, dynamics, in a classical form during the 17th century. Celestial dynamics or the laws of motion of heavenly bodies served as the model for the laws of all bodily movements. Space and time were taken up in an absolute sense by Newton and Leibniz; that means, space and time were treated separately, and both were considered in the absolute sense as not further analysable, both considered non plus ultra. In Newtonian and Leibnizian mechanics space is a kind of extension.

Descartes took a further step and asserted that the nature of matter and the body was the same; both consisted of a substance which is extended in length, thickness and breadth; nature is matter and matter is extension. Time, according to Newton and Leibniz, had extension. The relation of the extension of space and time was investigated by A. Einstein in the 20th century. The space of Newton and Leibniz was considered absolute in another sense; it had the three coordinates of our optical experience. Dürer had already written about this, as we have seen. Leibniz, in opposition to Newton, had grasped space relationally. Only in the 20th century were the three coordinates of optical experience, thus length, breadth and thickness, which were seen as generally valid for the universe in general, called into question by Einstein’s theory of relativity. Space and time in this theory were taken up together as spacetime; this is relative as there are no preferred coordinates. All three dimensions of space—length, breadth and height—stand in right angles to one another, and thus enjoy a constant or preferred coordination. The space of our sense experience, in particular our optical perception, is an objective datum of the material world and its corporeal movements, in which three and only three dimensions of space are found. This notion of space is constant and presupposes the concept of mechanics in the 16th as in the 20th century. The concept of space in quantum mechanics is related to other notions of dimension. We showcase here only the constants in the principles of research of nature between the 16th and 20th century, however we are otherwise more concerned with variables than constants. Nature is no atom, rather it is divisible; it is a composition of particles according to corpuscular theory. Newton was of the opinion that light as well is composed of particles and their movement. C. Huygens represented the view that ←167 | 168→light was wavelike and not of the particle kind. In the 20th century both conceptions are valid; it is wavelike and corpuscular.

Usually two opposed principles are featured in the creation of mechanical clocks in the 14th and 15th century. It is assumed that the mechanical clock with the weight pull came into existence in the late 13th century and in the middle of the 15th century with the main spring—each with a corresponding practice of winding up. The clockmaker Paulus Almanus, Paul the German, left a handwritten document, in which 30 mechanical clocks in Rome in 1475 were described.20 These mechanisms were also used in the art of war. Relations between the art of war and the art of pyrotechnics, of metallurgy, of the art of clock-making and of mining have been emphasized multiple times and are well-known.

The mechanical clock, the accurate measurement of time and the application of these products in manufacture, mining, in the art of seafaring and astronomical observation were developed at the same time. The great successes in the workshop are recognized as objective events and have a rational basis.

In this case a rational worldview led to its changing into irrationalism. The reflection of the rational macrocosm as the great clock and God as the great clockmaker is a mystical conception of the universe; the conclusion, that the clockmaker in the workshop is a little God, is a micro deity, is derived from it. Mechanics in general and celestial mechanics in particular are treated here metaphysically, not scientifically.21 Time is also measured in a purely practical fashion. In the 16th century the counting of the months of the year began with January. Years and leap years were calculated (Adam Ries). 1556 and 1560 were counted as leap years, each with 366 days; the normal year was reckoned at 365 days. 52 weeks and 1 day are a normal year, 52 weeks and 2 days a leap year. 7 days are a week. One day and a night amount to 24 hours. A normal year has 8760 hours and a leap year 8784 hours. 4 years have 35,064 hours. An hour has 60 minutes, a minute has 60 seconds, a second has 60 tierces. Julius Ceasar initially created the calendar with the assistance of the famous mathematician, Sosigenes.22 This calendar was introduced by Caesar in the year 45 before the turn of the calendar. Sosigenes was an Egyptian Greek, an astronomer and mathematician in Caesar’s service. Most recent research has not refuted Ries’ conception. Sosigenes accused the Greek mathematician Eudoxos that his theories did not salvage the phenomena of the celestial bodies (sozein ta phainomena).23

The development of the mechanical clock, advances in the art of metal working, in chemistry, in the work of mining, in assaying, in geography and astronomy, in physiology and in mathematics had a deeply reciprocal effect on one another. Mechanics was either envisioned concretely as a mechanical clock or abstractly, that is, as lawful [gesetzmäßig]. The concrete idea points only to the extent of ←168 | 169→human imagination, to poetry and fantasy. The most abstract of all notions is an interesting mixture of metaphysics and empirical physics. The mechanical worldview proceeds from the notion that the universe, the solar system and life are explained by the investigation of mechanical laws. It is not possible to refute a metaphysical conception through empirical research in cosmology or biology, in geology or in anthropology. Hence, we have nothing to say in this context about the metaphysics of Descartes or Leibniz.

The science of mechanics is researched and conceptualized differently today than in the past. In the 17th century mathematics was not separated from empirical mechanics. Today they are treated separately. It is also likely that mechanics will change further in the future (see above). Since the laws of mechanics change, the mechanization of the worldview and the mechanistic worldview itself will change.24

In different parts of Europe during the 15th, 16th, and 17th century mechanics in the labour process was advanced, and tools were continuously made more complicated. The mechanical clock in comparison to the sundial is only one example among others in this connection. We have already spoken a little about mechanization in the art of weaving and we will later examine more closely mechanisms in mining. Machines were more reliably constructed in the 15th, 16th, and 17th century, better controlled and regulated in waterpower, in meteorology, in haulage and in transportation. The risk in the investment of capital was taken up as well as the risk of death for the labourers. The development of the art of seafaring had made voyages across the ocean possible and led to the exploitation of ore deeper underground. The number and complexity of tools in the process of labour were increased.25 The easing of corporal labour was seldom mentioned, because it did not happen. Agricultural labour, as Hans Sachs mentioned, remained hard and bitter for the peasant. Schoenlank and Kriegk repeatedly pointed out that it was no different with labour in the town.

In the 19th and 20th century systematic attempts to limit physical effort in the factory were undertaken, and it was concluded on this basis that the alleviation of these efforts and the easing of physical labour were bound up with the increasing quality and quantity of products and the productivity of labour.

4.1.2 The Measurement and Consciousness of Time

With the dissemination of the mechanical clock in the towns, a change in the consciousness of time came about. Peasants followed the seasons with regard to harrowing, sowing and harvesting. All human beings have a daily and yearly rhythm of life, of labour, of consumption of the fruits of their labour in common. Through ←169 | 170→the mechanization of clocks people in the centre, west and south of Europe came to have a changed concept of time. Labour time was reckoned in hours; the measurement of time was taken up by all estates and classes; wages in the town were linked to labour time, and this had to do with the transformation of the consciousness of time. Time flows, yet it is imprisoned in hours and minutes. It is ascertained in ceremonial-clerical seasons of the year, weddings and by peasant labours, yet in the town it was conceived of differently. The changed interaction with the measurement of time is expressed in poetry:

Dasz es erst sey die zehent Stundt

sprich doch es habe lang zwölffe geschlagen.

(Kaspar Scheidt. Grobjanus 1551)

That it is only the 10th hour

Yet say that the 12th hour has chimed.

The daily wage had explicitly fixed the day and the hour as reckoning unit for the recompense of labour. Human life and labour time were divided into days of labour and thereafter no longer reckoned according to the season. Martin Luther went further in the matter of the reckoning of wages and salaries and believed that there was an abstract, no longer concretized unit of value, namely the common or foundational labour time, whose compensation ought to serve as the reckoning unit for the valuation of the achievement of commercial labour. The merchant who wants to reckon his fair profit, should make a rough estimate of the time and magnitude of his labour and seek that which a common day labourer earns in a day. “Thereupon reckon how many days you strove to procure and earn your commodity and how great the labor and danger you faced in so doing. For great labor and a lot of invested time should also earn a greater reward.” Labour time, so Luther thought, is valuable in and for itself. The monopolies have set themselves against the word of God, and the great commercial companies equally so, because they earned in a short period that which cost an honourable man much labour time. He said further: “How can it happen in the eyes of God and the law, that a man can become so wealthy in such a short time, that he might want to buy out King and Emperor.”26 His chief example of commercial usury was related to the practices of the Fugger company, for it was in the position to buy out the princes in Rome and Vienna.27 It was often said that Luther’s economic views were derived from the Middle Ages. We show here that Luther’s opinion, his conceptions and practical examples are related to modern times.

←170 | 171→

These assertions in the 16th century point to a change in the treatment of time, of labour practices and of time consciousness. We do not speak of an increase in the consciousness of time, because the peasants were just as much influenced by the passage of time, but rather of a qualitative change in form in relation to the reckoning of labour time and with the consciousness of time bound up with it. The changes are not traced back to the invention or production of clock towers or cathedral clocks, of the egg of Nuremberg, and so on. The development and diffusion of clocks as well as the changes in the consciousness and reckoning of fractions of minutes in astronomy are various expressions of the changes in society and the processes of labour.

Agricultural labour and the rhythm in agricultural production would no longer be the determining factor of time consciousness; they are replaced by the labour processes in the towns. And even if the peasants remained the overwhelming majority of the population in the 15th, 16th and 17th century, labour in the town became the driving force in the process of change in the treatment of time and of coming to grips with time. These changes were related to the countryside. The peasants wanted everyone to be paid a daily wage.

The increasing accuracy in the measurement of time is bound up with the increasing accuracy in the measurement of the process of labour, of space, of weight, of the mechanical processes and of the geometry of volume. Accuracy and reliability increase in social information activities. The printing press provides for the exact, reliable and secure repetition of the wording of a law, a document, an act, a decree, an instruction, a book, a contract, and so on. The same processes and kinds of treatment in the factory—through the mass assembly of products of the same type, of the same quality and of the same performance ability and defectiveness—are the characteristic features of the modern economy.

The working day and wage were reckoned differently according to the season. In Nuremberg the measure of the day consisted of 12 hours of the same length from midnight to noon and no less than the many hours from noon to midnight, which was counted by the clock. Alongside of this there was another, called the great clock, according to which the daily hours used to be counted according to the character of the changing length of the day from sunrise to sunset, so that together they amounted to 24 hours. In high summer 16 daylight and 8 hours of night were reckoned. In the deepest winter it was vice-versa. The effective working day in construction in Nuremberg in the 16th century amounted on average to 10 or 11 hours; 7 in the winter, at most 12 in the summer. In an order in council at the time, which fixed the wage and labour time of the roofer, construction workers, plasterer [Klaiber], stone mason, white washer and carpenters, it read: “And namely they should throughout the entire year go to work every day early when the clock ←171 | 172→strikes [wann es den Garaus schlägt] they should end their labour. So, that the day is 8 and 9 hours long, they should break for refreshment [sollen sie zur Suppen abgehen] when the great clock chimes three and return again to work at four and at night when the clock strikes one cease working. When the day is 11 hours long, they should also go to dinner [zur Suppen abgehen] when the clock strikes four and at 5 return once again to their labour and at night, around one, cease their labours. When the day is 12 hours in length, they should go and return twice to their labour, namely the first time early to dinner when the clock strikes three and return at four. The other time they should leave off their labour at vespers when the clock strikes seven, be at work again at eight, and cease their labour at one at night.” The working day was similarly regulated when the day was 13 and 14, 15 and 16 hours long. In this way the rhythm of labour and civic life were determined by the striking chimes of the clock.

Labour time in the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th century in the towns of Central Europe was long. Many trades still carried out their work by candlelight as well. For the helmet, hood and weapon smiths as well as the pewterers in Nuremberg, 14, 15, 16 hours of labour daily was something common. In comparison to these conditions of labour the hours of labour of construction workers appear to be an elite matter. Apprentices demanded throughout not a shortening of the working day, but rather a shortening of the work week through the guarantee of a free workday to wit that of the good or blue [hungover] Monday. The struggle was carried on in connection with a piece of folk hygiene, with the access to the bathes on Monday, which was lifted during the Thirty Years’ War. In the 15th and at the beginning of the 16th century the good Monday was generally recognized but thereafter revoked. The struggle was over a half day holiday, at times weekly, at other times every second week.

Time in social life and in social labour was observed, divided and measured with increasing exactitude. The measurement of time was related to daily wages and to the price reckoning of the products. If the prices of provisions fell, so too would wages. The time of the labour process and of the wage was counted in increasingly smaller units of measure. Our point of departure is not the measurement of time, but rather we begin with reciprocal effects of daily wage labour, of the money economy, of money prices, of the trade of commodities and chronometry bound up with them.

People and time under these conditions were treated mechanically, labour time was counted mechanically. The effects of these conditions do not lessen over time, they are only controlled more exactly and more sharply.

The struggle for free time was not only about the good or blue Monday. The Reformation had regulated the holidays and the need for official holidays was more ←172 | 173→lively contested as a result. At the end of the 16th century the local journeymen [senior journeymen, male head servants Örtengesellen] and the common society of the Nuremberg fustian weavers-handicraft [gemeine Gesellschaft des Nürnberger Barchentweber-Handwerks] complained: “We have had as compensation for our efforts and labour 7 fixed days, the way other workshops still have it, but for us here 5 were cancelled and only 2 remain, Carnival and St. Martin’s Day.” [„Wir haben auch hiervon uns einer Ersetzlichkeit unserer Mühe und Arbeit sieben Tage fest gehabt, das auswendig auf anderen Werkstätten noch ist, aber allhier seien uns deren fünf abgebrochen und halt uns nur zwei, als die Fasnacht und Lichtgans (Michels-oder Martinsgans)].”28

In the period from the 13th to the 17th century the duration of labour and daily wages were not fixed immediately by the contracts among entrepreneurs, company managers and labourers, but rather through the decrees of the town councils. These regulations extend over the late Middle Ages and the first centuries of the modern era. For apprentices and child servants, life was joyless, the chance of better relations was small, the effort for daily bread great, the exploitation of menials painful and embittering.29 They were forced to deal with the council and to assert their views and rights through the increasing number of worker uprisings. The explicit or implicit labour contracts were related to the negotiations between the organizations of apprentices and the council.

4.2 Wage Labour and the Politics of Wages in the Early Capitalist Period

We have considered the meaning of wage labour from the side of the rebellious peasants in the 15th and 16th century, of the contracts in civil law, of the guild system, of the entrepreneurs and of the journeymen’s organizations. It is foundational for the conception of the capitalist period in European history. The daily wage, wage labour and the money form in recompense did not appear for the first time in history. They were introduced sporadically in antiquity in the various parts of the Near East, in Asia and in the region of the Mediterranean. In distinction to the earlier practices, wage labour is widely and increasingly more systematically elaborated in the capitalist period. This social labour is free in the formal sense, voluntarily recompensed and not coerced. Concerning the wage, it is either negotiated in an immediate process of negotiation, or in comparison with other payments of labour. We shall consider more closely some examples of wage labour in the early capitalist period.

←173 | 174→

In modern bourgeois society wage labour is the predominant form of labour. In opposition to slavery and serfdom it is pro forma free labour and expresses the immediate, reciprocal relation between the labourers and owners, the master or capitalist in the enterprise. The formal unity and the unmediated reciprocity of the relation between the wage labourers and the capitalist entrepreneurs are set out as the equality between the two sides in the juridical sense. Freedom and equality in relation to the two sides appear in the historical form of an explicit or implicit contract, in which recompense, in whatever form, is determined by the duration of labour and its conditions. Recompense has the different forms of wage or piece wages, money or natural wages, among others. The determinations of the working day according to the season, summer and winter, as well as of the working week and the holidays were brought into labour contracts through negotiations. The representatives of the labourers were the fraternities of journeymen or the journeymen federations, the miners’ association [Knappschaft] and more of the kind in the late Middle Ages and in modern times. The proxies of the company owners, masters and entrepreneurs were for the most part the council. The wage labourers entered into contract negotiations through their representatives on the basis of equality. In this way the immediate relations of the labourers and the entrepreneurs transformed into mediate ones. The council had also tried to represent the labourers, the journeymen and apprentices as well as the masters; its orientation in this matter corresponded however only to the side of the patricians and the wealthy.

Freedom and equality of the negotiating partners in the wage labour contract were recognized early. Revocation of the reciprocal relations were ushered in by strikes, unrest and uprisings on the side of the journeymen and apprentices and by the lockouts and cessation of wages on the side of the council and entrepreneurs. The organizations of the journeymen were transformed under some conditions into organizations of masters and journeymen; thus, there were no trade unions in the epoch of early capitalism in the sense of their existence in high capitalism. The masters were in part entrepreneurs and in part an elite of labourers in the early epoch. The shareholders were then copartners, stock owners or associates in the mining companies.

Wage labour continued to develop at the expense of serfdom and of forced labour in the 15th and 16th century. Originally this recompense was a mixture of money as an annual wage, wage in kind and assorted emoluments, such as that, for example, taken from the data of Inama-Sterneggs, which concern the Austrian foundation [Stift].30 In the decade of the 60s of the 15th century the money wage was the predominant form of recompense of the foundation. The transition to the money economy was already initiated.

Comments to Table 7: In the hammer mill as well, labour was in part recompensed by payment in kind. Payment in kind lost its significance in later times. ←174 | 175→Money and payment in kind in any case constitute the opposition to corvée and compulsory collective labour as they were practiced in the Middle Ages. Payments in kind are mainly the products of the labour process, such as grain, hay or meat for the peasants, iron for the hammer craftsmen.

The transition to the wage and money economy in the countryside in the 15th century is shown from the details of a manor in Saxony. We observe how the money economy has penetrated the life of the laiety and of the clerics.

Table 7: Annual Expenditures of Knight Hans von Honsperg in Clöden (Saxony) in 1474. Wilhelm Abel, Geschichte der deutschen Landwirtschaft, 3rd edition, Stuttgart 1978, p. 141


Schok (New Pennies)

Percentage (Rounded Off)



















Wages fell into two categories, one for the craftsmen (smiths, coopers, potters among others) and one for the labourers, who belonged to the activities of the household and economy of the manor (servant, maid, dairy woman, steward, maintenance sergeant [Schirrmeister], cook, waiter, herder, custodian, scribe). In the second category 21 people were engaged. The total wages contributed just under 40% of the total of the manor. The 62.5 Schock31 of new pennies were converted into 5.920 tons of rye, and the money value of the entire operation for one year, which came to 158.5 Schock of new pennies, was translated into 15,010 tons of rye. The expenditures for iron, a fish net, rope, skeins, a cart and fencing were reckoned together in the inventory. Expenditures for cattle were related to the oxen, calves, chickens and geese but the keeping of sheep was excluded from it and reckoned to the expenditures for food. 27 Schock of new pennies were expended on food, of which 10 Schock were for hops, wood for brewing and spices, 9 for fish, 3 for figs, raisins, almonds and rice, 5 for honey, salt and so on. The money value of clothing is reckoned only for the members of the knight’s family, which amounted to 70% of the money value of the wages or 44 Schock of new pennies.

In 1538 Sebastian Franck wrote: “Now let the peasants in the meanwhile immediately give a farm and estate for a thousand guilders, which could hardly be sold for half the price and give a cart of hay for 4 or 5 guilders, a cow for 10 guilders, and equally a horn also for 1 guilder, the tail for 2, the skin for 3 guilders, so that ←175 | 176→that none of the parties can complain about it. Thus the butcher must give a pound of meat for 7 or 8 pennies, the tanner a skin for 4 to 5 guilders, the shoemaker a pair of shoes for half a guilder; the stove setter, tailor, smith may not like it when they comport themselves in this way and give a penny chamber pot for 1 kreuzer, the smith the horseshoe for 3 kreuzers, the wainwright the wheel three times the expense he incurred. Thus, it is exactly as before, that it was inexpensive; but that all things are more expensive and the kreuzer plays the role of the penny.”32

In Nuremberg we have the following data for the daily wage for construction workers (in pennies):

Table 8: Wages (in Pennies) for Unskilled Labourers, Journeymen and Masters, in Construction in Nuremberg by Selected Years

In 1559, the winter wage from October to January rose by 20 pennies for the journeymen masons, and the summer wage from April to September by 36 pennies. In the winter, work was 8 hours a day and in summer, 12 to 13 hours. Nothing was said about the situation in February and March.

In 1543, excavators earned a daily wage of 24 pennies, which meant almost 19 pennies over the course of a year.

The day was strictly related to the duration of the working day and with its recompense. At the end of the 16th century the wages in Nuremberg for construction work amounted to the following:33

Table 9: Summer and Winter Wages in Construction in Nuremberg by Classification at the End of the 16th Century


Summer Wage

Winter Wage







Paddle mixers



Common labourers



←176 | 177→

The council decreed an edict regarding the daily wage, when the prices for provisions were low, “and therefore saw this as a reason to set the previously daily wage rather lower, than to raise it or bid it up.” In 1597 a pound of meat cost 10 pennies, 1 Simra (=16 Nuremberg Metzen) of corn 4 ½ florins.

Labour time in the construction sector in Frankfurt am Main in the 15th century was reckoned in two ways, from Saint Gallen’s Day (the 16th of October) to the Day of Our Lady (Becliben, the 25th of March) called the shortest period, and on the contrary, from the Day of Our Lady to Saint Gallen’s Day which was called the longest period. The wage (without food for the roofer [Steindecker] and the construction worker who produces and puts clay on the inner walls of a house [Kleuber] in the longest period amounted to 5:4 in relation to the wage of the same guilds in the construction sector during the shortest period. For the thatched roofer [Schaubdecker] the wage amounted to 4:3 in the same seasons. The guild of the Opperknechte (the unskilled workers) [Handlanger] in other parts of Germany) belonged to the skilled construction workers. The daily wage of the unskilled workers [Opperknechte] was the lowest, which the Frankfurt council had recognized, and can thus serve as an example for the common wage, which Martin Luther (see above) had imagined.34

Tables 8 and 9 above point to the fact that the wage and money economy in Central Europe were related to the agrarian sector already in the 15th century. We won’t generalize this observation, because large parts of the agricultural economy, especially east of the Elbe, was still primarily feudal—thus driven by corvée obligation and falling therefore outside of the circulation of money. The spread of wage labour was implemented as a rule in the town, but sporadically in the country as well.

The general data and statistics in Central Europe during the 15th, 16th and 17th century have been thoroughly researched and yet there is no systematic summarization because the details are fragmentary. Hence, only a few examples of daily wages are mentioned in that period. The shoemaker journeyman in Nuremberg in the 17th century earned 8 kreuzers daily on average, the junior apprentice in the same sector earned 4 kreuzers daily. For the carpenters the weekly wage was set at 4 to a maximum of 8 Batzen. However, the difference between the domestic and foreign journeymen was known. The latter received 6 Batzen as a wage, and thus lay in the midrange of the weekly wage for a journeyman carpenter.35

At this time commodity prices in Central Europe strongly increased, wages less so. Hence Abel reckoned the following developments of prices and wages in Hamburg from 1511 to 1625: wages of masons increased by 265%, carpenters’ wages rose by 209%, weavers’ wages rose by 225%, women’s wages rose 138%. The price of rye in the same period increased by 376%. The prices of beans were linked ←177 | 178→to the prices of grain. Everywhere in Germany from 1500 to 1600 wages rose by 150%, prices of the products of the various sectors on the contrary by 200% and the prices of grain by 300%, that is greatly higher than the increase in wages. It was no different in England, France, Austria and Poland.36

Until the Reformation the workers had in addition to Sundays 48 holidays annually; after the Reformation workers had just 18 holidays. Real wages for the unskilled labourers, like the unskilled labourers in construction, sank in the 16th century. They earned the equivalent wage for a working day in 1500 of 4 pounds of meat, in 1600 of 2 to 2 ½ pounds of meat, in 1500 for 25 to 30 working days of 1 Sümmer [bushel] of grain, in 1600 for 80 working days 1 Sümmer of grain. During the 16th century wages for the unskilled labourers rose by 200%, for the journeymen just shy of 300%. For real wages there was no improvement. In the same period, meat prices rose 300–400%, the price of beer 300%, the price of wine 500–600% and the price of grain 400%.37

In 1563 manual labourers in Styria [Steiermark] wrested authority from the merchant entrepreneurs of the domestic iron industry [Eisenverleger]. An iron trade company was established, in which each townsman who could acquire a capital investment could be a member. Every wainwright received an advance from his buyer who was his hammer master [Hammerherr], and he in turn was given an advance by his Styrian dealers. It was the master wainwright above all who had the advantage from the expansion of oven capacity and from the transition to the heavier standard. In the hammer enterprise the journeymen fared increasingly poorly and the women who worked there fared even worse. Sinter washers received for the tenth washed iron [Wascheisen] 20 pennies each. This was mostly the labour of women. The medieval-patriarchal relation between the master wainwright and their people disappeared. The common Sunday meals ceased as did the Fasching hospitality and the housing cost in domestic chores as well. In the movement of the journeymen, the class struggle was made noticeable, not for the first time, however. The history of the class struggle of the journeymen organizations in the Middle Ages is known.38

In 1583 the ironworks in the town of Styr went over into the hands of the workers from the merchant-entrepreneur putting-out distributer [Verleger] in lieu of payment in money. Traders, hammer master [Hammerherr] and shareholders came together in a putting-out enterprise [Verlag]. The dealers gave the hammer masters [Hammerherrn] an advance, and the master wainwright received an advance from the Hammerherrn according to the schedule, to set his workshop into motion, to appropriate tools and raw materials and to pay the workers. The original wage of accord or piece wage increasingly receded in favour of the weekly wage. The dealers who were the merchant entrepreneurs [Verleger] of means in the ←178 | 179→putting-out system, acquired the iron ore without difficulty and turned it over; the poorer ones found little or no market for their portion. The enterprise was built by the participation of the shareholders. Each shareholder was supposed to have a Verleger in principle who would advance him money, or should himself be a Verleger, who could take out his portion from the yield of ore. The town council of Styr should have allowed the passage of the requirements in the iron hammer works and in mining in the region. There arose in the area of Saxony during the 16th century the tin plate trade, the pewters in Amberg. However, the difference between native and foreign slowly disappeared. More shareholders were miners, at the same time small capitalists and hewers.

The feudal hewers took over partial sections in the putting-out system in mining. They worked at their own risk, their income in the best case was set above the level of the wage workers. Little by little the wage labourers moved forward in place of the shareholders. As a consequence, there came about the differentiation of the shareholders into two classes, those working and those not working in mining. On the shareholders’ part an agreement was made on behalf of everyone in the feudal system [Die Lehenschaft] and in opposition to autonomous mining and against a quota of the part devoted to supporting the mining claim. The shareholders kept the better part of the mining for themselves, the remainder they conferred on others, which is to be concluded from the mining regulation of Meissen of 1328, from the mining regulation of Tirol of 1408 and of the mining regulation at Breisgau from 1517.39

The founding of the iron trade company in Styr can be compared with the founding of the General Iron Trade company in Löben and the Cloth Trade Company in Iglau. Some poor weavers were forced to accept putting-out. Over time the private people as a matter of the course of business had no longer accepted putting-out. Thereupon the founding of the company occurred.40

In the region of the Mediterranean the population increased, purchasing power in the domestic market was elevated, the system of credit and finance expanded. This had to do with greater income for the entire macro economy and with new foreign markets, this in connection with the increasing productivity through new entrepreneurial activity, through lower prices, more rational processes of production, entrepreneurs producing in advance, through a stronger measure of taking risk into account, new customers and investments and through increased competition among the entrepreneurs. The economy as well as productivity was strengthened by technic.41 The poor remained poor, the rich established their wealth in the period of capitalism not on the exploitation of corvée, but rather on the exploitation of wage labour and of capital.

←179 | 180→

4.3 Labour and Society, Public and Private Interests

The labour relations of the capitalist system are everywhere socially organized. In the collective, communal or in the communistic society social labour is correspondingly organized [i.e. as collective, communal or communistic labour]. The emphasis of wage labour relations is closely linked to the interest of the group. The town council, the guilds, (Zünfte, Gilden) unions (Innungen), offices (Ämter), associations (Verbände), fraternities (Bruderschaften), associations express group relations in the 15th century.42 The individual appears not as founder, but rather as participant in these activities, relationships, spheres of interest and conflicts.

What is present implicitly or hidden in the period of early bourgeois society, appears clearly in later epochs. The keen thinkers and observers first saw that there were two opposite spheres of interest in modern bourgeois society—the public and the private. Adam Smith and Hegel directed general attention to the duels between these two spheres.43 The conflicts did not come to the fore so starkly three hundred years earlier, but they were already present. The town council in Augsburg, as in Mainz, Frankfurt am Main, Nuremberg and elsewhere represented the interests of their members, that is the wealthy, the patricians, the old bourgeois families; the imperial cities represented the interest of the Empire and of the territorial princes. The council guaranteed civil peace through the system of guards, gatekeepers, custodians, soldiers, highway officials, judges, of the wall and road structures. It was inclined or forced to introduce compromises with the journeymen organizations in order not to jeopardize civil peace. It was forbidden to the masters to conduct negotiations with the journeymen. The council was supposed to determine the wages and working conditions for the entire city according to each branch of business operation and the qualification of labour. Public power in the form of the council had not recognized the independent interests of the private sphere, of the entrepreneurs.

Through wage relations, labour time became a commodity, which had a determinate price in the labour market. The labour market is like all others, with a seller of a commodity, of labour time and labour capacity, and a buyer of the same. The market was widespread in the capitalist system, especially in the private sphere.

The uprisings, the wars, the unrest and the uncertainties of civil life at the beginning of this system transformed society, the system of towns and countryside, of the economy, of politics and of religion in Central Europe. The capitalist system and modern bourgeois society continued to develop in the waning years of the 17th century under new conditions. Civil peace was transformed and established on the basis of the new national and territorial state as well as on its new absolutism. The economic relations of free trade in conflict with mercantilism and ←180 | 181→cameralism had replaced the preceding system of guild, council and patriciate. The later system is a further development of the earlier one. Capitalist practices of wage labour, of money, commodity, credit and market system were continued under later and more conducive conditions.

We judge the process of development objectively as advantageous for the people of Europe. Quantitatively the creation of riches and of commodity exchange from 1450 to 1700 and later were further multiplied. We judge objectively and qualitatively the process of development as advantageous for humanity, for civil rights and civil peace were deepened, multiplied and expanded in the late 17th century. The freedom and equality of the lower strata and of the outsiders of society were secured and supported. With that said this development had already begun in the 15th and 16th century. The two spheres, the public and the private, did not come into conflict in the earlier periods. Only in the 18th century did this come about; before that time the dispute of labourers with entrepreneurs in the labour process had been mediated by the council. Only later did it come to an immediate conflict between the working class and the class of capitalist entrepreneurs.

The council in the period from the 15th to the 17th century had decided how much could be earned, what the length of the working day should be, and how large the enterprise could become. The early-modern town council decreed and regulated how many workers would be allowed to be hired in an enterprise in a given branch. The town council also decided which enterprises should be conducted inside town and which should be located within and without the town wall. Moreover, the council had determined the quality of life through the control and punishment for the counterfeiting of bread, coins and so on. The public interest was not identical with the private interest but the difference in this case did not so stridently come to the fore as it did in the 18th and 19th century. The public power of the state and of the council was greater than the private power of the entrepreneurial class in the 15th and 16th century in Central Europe. The absolute state assumed the power of the council in the 17th and 18th century. The private sphere and the private interest of the capitalist class became strong enough to dominate the power of the Central European aristocracy and of the state only in the 19th century.

The great political event of modern times in Europe was the surfacing of nation states: first England, France and the Netherlands, then the national states in central, southern, northern and eastern Europe. When Hegel said, Germany was no longer a state, he meant it was not a nation state: Germany was a collection, a mixtum compositum, a mélange of a wide variety of small states. Through the development of the capitalist system the current composition of nation states formed in their development and their defeats. Feudal power was dispersed, the ←181 | 182→power of the states in the capitalist period became concentrated. In Central Europe in the modern era the power of the dynasties and of the Catholic Church was constricted, limited and weakened, over the course of time. In the epoch of early capitalism in this part of the world, political power was strengthened by dynastic absolutism whose period of efflorescence was the second half of the 17th and 18th century until roughly the French Revolution. The influence of the state upon the economy was centralized in the form of high cameralism. (Autocrats in Berlin, Vienna, Dresden and elsewhere, gathered around them economists that were commonly referred to as cameralists.) These economists established no unitary school of economic science; in fact, they were mainly servants of the princely and imperial courts in the period of developing capitalism. The Thirty Years’ War, the peasant revolts, the wars of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation from the late 15th century to the middle of the 17th century, had brought the people to the point where they welcomed the absolute rule of the autocrats in the 18th century. On their part, the princes secured civil peace within the empire, and extended religious tolerance and civil rights. Lessing, Goethe and Schiller gave expression to the tone of the period. That which the king had proposed was good, but not enough. The poets wanted still more freedom, more equality.

The cameralists were no free spirits as were the poets. They were statesmen who influenced the further development of the political economy. They were primarily advisers in the service of their masters. Increasing economic activity did not lead immediately to the expansion of bourgeois political influence. In practice the princely court considered and used the bourgeois merchants as a possible extension of state power. The bourgeoisie as a social class had not yet elaborated its social consciousness as a class. They were, rather, more the subjects of state politics. Both sides, the cameralists and the merchants, determined the role of citizens in service to the state.44

The cameralists fundamentally demonstrated their service to the public power and their interests. They investigated and pondered, how state power and their wealth were to be increased. Another name for their activity is police science [Polizeiwissenschaft]; crudely stated the German cameralist corresponded to the Spanish politico. The major interest of this group was the furtherance of the growing industry and agriculture, at the same time preferring production in the domestic market, not that of foreign trade. Insofar as they represented a theoretical conception, this stood in connection with a systematic expansion of advancements of this kind right up to autarky or the self-preservation of the state. Their second major interest was the administration of the economy in the service of the state. Industrial or agricultural development should serve as the source for the increase in state income. Diomede Carafa, Jean Bodin, and Giovanni Botero endorsed this ←182 | 183→line of thinking. We shall not pursue it and not criticize it, but rather counterpose such views to the private interest. The German-speaking cameralists, like Melchior von Osse, Georg Olbrecht, Veit Ludwig von Seckendorf in the 16th and 17th century, Johann Heinrich Gottlob von Justi and Joseph von Sonnenfels in the 18th century, were no advocates or representatives of the private interest as was their contemporary, Adam Smith.45 The direction of the national economy by the state and mediately through the advisers of the state with the view to increase state income and the state budget, does not lie in the immediate sense in the interest of the private man as a capitalist. The great cause for him, understood by Adam Smith, is his profit, which is not identical with state income. It was already clear in the 18th century, that the increase of state income did not lie in the interest of the private capitalist as a social class. The intervention of the men of state in private affairs was unsuccessful for this reason. The statesmen were ineffective and understood nothing of private commerce or the merchant class.

Hegel included the opposition between the two spheres, of the private and the public, in his dialectical understanding of bourgeois society. The original dispute between the spheres in the earlier period of modernity was more implicit than explicit. Osse, Olbrecht and von Seckendorff had represented the state and its interest. The opposing interest of the bourgeois class did not achieve prominent expression, because this class at the time was weak. The working class was weak as well, for the public hand of the town council had repressed the journeymen. The journeymens’ organizations were suppressed by the communal politics of the council. The state and council as organs of the public power were mighty. The private sphere of the capitalists, of the entrepreneurs, of the traders, of the associations of miners, of the organizations of the journeymen and of the fraternities was entirely in opposition to the organs of the public power.

The struggle over the wages of the journeymen and miners [Knappen] as well as the wage politics of the council are to be understood in this connection. Class relations in the town during the 15th, 16th and 17th century were qualitatively the same as in the following centuries. In this respect Hegel’s conception of history provided an important contribution for the understanding of the earlier epochs of modernity. The guild masters and the journeymen were regulated as private persons by the council. The representatives of the state in Brandenburg, Kurhessen, Braunschweig and Saxony in the second half of the 17th century had decided to keep the guilds and to administer them directly. The town council in the later epochs was a remnant of the imperial town system of the past and had become irrelevant. The guild system as an expression of the private sphere in central European society was dominated by the electoral instances in reference to the relation of masters, journeymen and apprentices to one another and to ←183 | 184→the customers. The public hand had been thereby strengthened, and it had made reference to this strength. The private sphere of the bourgeois class in the period of high capitalism followed, then abolished the guild system and changed its attitude in relation to the state.46

In this early-modern period, the state was strengthened at the cost of the Church and of the town council in Central Europe. All are representatives of the public hand. Lastly, the state made the public hand into its monopoly everywhere in the world.

With regard to the quality of life of the miners [Knappen] and the journeymen in the period of early capitalism in Central Europe, F. M. Feldhaus made the following remark: “The information which we can take from the files of the Fuggers (who were not only the bankers of the emperor and popes, but also the owners of the monopoly of wholesale world trade in copper) is thought provoking concerning the condition of the workers and provokes us to reflect. Day and night shifts were encouraged. Wages were low; distress and poverty very high. Women and children also worked in the ironworks; there were many accidents caused by machines, but there was no workers’ welfare; at best there were alms. Debts of fired workers or dead miners [Knappen] were collected by pawning things necessary to life, and the remainder went through the business ledgers for many years. Two widows of miners [Knappen] who died in the Spanish mines of the Fuggers were only supported after a lengthy back and forth, but everything was subtracted again ‘from the earnings of their sons.’ ”47

The poor in Esslingen and Württemberg (Heilbronn) as well as in Mühlhausen (Thuringia) were manual labourers and those without possessions who made up more than 50% of the population of these towns; the middle class constituted a third, and the rest were wealthy. In Constance 61% of the population were poor and possessed together 2% of the wealth of the town; the wealthy constituted 2% of the town, and 40% of the town wealth belonged to them; the middle class amounted to 37% of the population with 58% of the wealth. The assets in these towns refer to the end of the 16th century. In 1378 24% of the population in Rostock was poor. In 1550 the wealthy amounted to 0.5% of the population of Rostock, the poor (around the year 1520) 63%, the manual labourers and small merchants 20% and the upper middle class 15%.

From the payments of taxes in Augsburg in the 16th century we have the following picture of wealth: in 1558 0.9% wealthy, 4.8% belonged to the middle class; in 1576 there were just as many wealthy, while 5.8% counted as middle class. In Nuremberg in 1500 6–8% of the population belonged to the wealthier upper stratum, the poor or the lower stratum amounted to a third of the population; 450 ←184 | 185→burgesses were able to live with a good income. In 1568 416 townspeople had more than 5,000 florins, of which 250 had more than 10,000.

The continuing structuration of labour in the municipal industries and the immigration of unskilled labourers led to increasing poverty. The excess population in the 16th century had increased. In 1449 10% of the population, in 1662 12% of the population were homeless in Nuremberg. 300 poor brass smiths [Rotschmiede], thimble makers and eyelet and hook makers [Heftleinsmacher] in the year 1522 could not nourish their families and asked for support.48

The patricians pitted the journeymen against the masters, in order to keep the manual labourers down.49 By itself, economic development, which had aimed to unify the masters in the organized manual trades, caused the consolidation of the servants at the opposite pole. The movement of journeymen on an extended level begins in the 14th century.50 The connection of the mechanization of the process of labour with the movement of liberation of the peasants and the rise of capitalist entrepreneurs in Central Europe during this period has already been emphasized in this work.


1. See E. J. Dijksterhuis, Die Mechanisierung des Weltbildes, Berlin 1956, Chapter III; he shows this worldview by means of the example of the activities of William Gilbert, Descartes, Pierre Gassendi, Robert Boyle and Otto von Guericke.

2. E. Mach, Die Mechanik, 9th edition (1933), Darmstadt 1976. E. J. Dijkserhuis, Die Mechanisierung des Weltbildes, Berlin 1983. H. Goldstein, Klassische Mechanik, 8th edition, Frankfurt am Main 1985.

3. H. Schopper, πανοπλια mechanicarum aut sedentariarum, Frankfurt am Main 1568. Idem., De Omnibus illiberalibus sive mechanics artibus, Frankfurt am Main 1574.

4. A. Dürer, Unterweisung der Messung mit dem Zirkel und Richtscheit in Linien, Ebenen und ganzen Korporen, Nürnberg 1525.

5. A. Dürer, Unterweisung der Messung.

6. Leone Battista Alberti’s book De Re Aedificatoria (Concerning Architecture) was competed in 1450 and posthumously published in 1485. Georg Agricola’s De Re Metallica (Concerning Mining and Metallurgy) was posthumously published in 1556. The volumes have not only the Latin language but also the form of the title and their posthumous appearance in common. Both were moved by humanistic principles, both have ascertained scientific laws, and both have taken up art and the practice of working men.

7. Erwin Panofsky, Albrecht Dürer, 4th edition, Princeton 1955 (Ger. Munich 1977). Panofsky showed that Dürer depicted the geometry of the manual labourers and of the workshop for the mathematicians. Cardano, Tartaglia, Benedetti, Kepler, Galilei and Cataldi had perceived the mathematical and artistic ideas of Dürer. Dürer presented the infinite as a thing that is present in the mind—not in front of one’s eyes. It is a point no matter how small it may be. The point that we see or draw with a feather, we are able to reach physically, the infinitely small on the other ←185 | 186→contrary, not. The infinitely large is similarly to be conceived. Dürer mastered the difference between the infinite and finite body.

8. Sir Isaac Newton, Mathematische Prinzipien der Naturlehre (1686). J. P. Wolters (ed.), Berlin 1872.

9. E. Mach, Die Mechanik (1883), Darmstadt 1976. Herbert Goldstein, Klassische Mechanik, 8th edition, Frankfurt am Main 1985. Immanuel Kant, Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Naturwissenschaft, 1786.

10. The mechanical investigations of Leonardo reveal that he was one of the most exceptional physicists of his day. Several historians of mechanics and of technics, like H. Grothus, F. Schuster, O. Werner, E. Solmi, F. M. Feldhaus, P. Duhem, A. Maier and I. B. Hart, have highly praised Leonardo’s knowledge in these areas. He investigated mechanics through experiments, yet he was not a systematic thinker in this field. After the invasion and victory of the French in Milan he was forced to leave the city. Afterwards he studied mechanics together with the mathematician Pacioli (see above).

11. See the following section. There is no all-encompassing history of mechanical philosophy. Medicine and physics were mechanically conceived by many thinkers in the 16th and 17th century. Santorio, professor of medicine at Padua published his book De medicina statica in 1614. He investigated mechanics, in particular statics in physiology. In this little book the notions of Galileo Galilei were related to medicine, and there the modern investigation of metabolism was founded. In England William Harvey researched the circulation of blood. He observed that the heart moved 540 pounds, 245 kilograms of blood, hence three times the weight of the human body per hour. The ideas of Harvey were likewise traced back to the mechanics of Galilei. Charles Singer, A Short History of Scientific Ideas, Oxford 1982. Singer treated the development of medicine from magic to science in: From Magic to Science, New York, 1958. E. J. Dijksterhuis (Die Mechanisierung des Weltbildes, Berlin 1983) touched but little on the history of medicine, even though it stood in a close relationship to the mechanical view of the world, as Singer has shown. On the other hand, Dijksterhuis has pointed to technics as a source of science; he gave emphasis to the interaction of the two in this context and critically, and really negatively, condemning the statements of F. Borkenau and A. von Martin. Dijksterhuis examined the problem of mechanization on the basis of research in mathematics, mechanics, astronomy and chemistry. A. Maier, Die Mechanisierung des Weltbildes, Leipzig 1983. In this work the emphasis is on philosophy. M. Boas, ‘The Establishment of the Mechanical Philosophy,’ Osiris, Vol. 10, 1952. M. B. Hesse, Forces and Fields: Über die Korpuskular Theorie, Greenwood 1970. K. Lasswitz, see above. P. Rossi, I Filosofi e le Macchine, Milan 1962. As the full title of his book reveals, E. Mach (1883; 1976) presented Die Mechanik in ihrer Entwicklung historisch-kritisch dargestellt. Not only celestial mechanics is treated here but also aeromechanics, that is, physics in the immediate terrestrial surroundings. Some of the problems of the workshop are also highlighted, but not systematically, only here and there. The disadvantages of this work are the gaps. Van Helmont and the early development of gas theory are missing; chemistry is only treated in relation to physics. Concerning his positivistic worldview we shall speak of elsewhere, but not here. Our task is not to investigate this relation in general but rather on a particular area and in a period as a contribution to the problem of periodization.

12. J. R. Partington, J. B. van Helmont, Annals of Science, Vol. 1. 1938. Comparative thoughts were expressed by Ciriacus Shreittmann.

13. E. Mach, Die Mechanik. E. J. Dijksterhuis, Die Mechanisierung des Weltbildes. M. Boas, The Establishment of the Mechanical Philosophy (see above).

←186 | 187→

14. I. Kant said that Leibniz wanted to explain the world mechanically; the Leibnizian explanation assumed the automaton spiritual, because it was driven by ideas; Leibniz intellectualized appearances. Kant, Kritik der reinen Vernunft, 1st edition, 1781; Anmerkung zur Amphibolie der Reflexionsbegriffe.

The conception of the Leibnizian mechanical philosophy led Kant to the conclusion, that mechanism was an automaton. The automatic effect of mechanism is twofold: materiale, corporeal, and spirituale, mental [spiritual, geistig].

After Regiomontan and Michael Stifel, Christoph Rudolff from Silesia developed the decimal system further in his work concerning die Coss. His books on arithmetic appeared in Augsburg in 1530 and later. Xylander (Wilhelm Holzmann), introduced die Coss or algebra among the Germans in the translation of works from Diaphantos from the Greek (Heidelberg 1575). Schreitmann and Stevin later applied the decimal system, the former to the art of assaying, the latter to astronomy, coinage, visor arts or stereometry, as well as to all merchants.

C. Rudolff, Kunstliche Rechnung mit der Ziffer und mit den Zahlpfenningen, Vienna 1526. M. Stifel, Deutsche Arithmetica inhaltend die Hausrechnung, die deutsche Coss. Nürnberg 1545. Idem. Die Coss Christoph Rudolffs mit schönen Exempeln gebessert, Königsberg 1553.

Pappus of Alexandria around 300 after the turn of the calendar brought out the following system of the mechanical arts. There are in it threefold practical arts necessary for life:

1. The art of magganarioi. The ancient mechanics called them this, those who made the tools, which simplified manual labour. They have great weight against nature; their tools set the weight in motion by means of a small or weak force.

2. The art of machines for warfare. Those who built these machines were called mechanics as well. With catapults they could throw objects of stone, iron and other materials across a great distance. There mechanics were called organopoioi.

3. The machines for waterworks. Those who made these machines were called mechanopoioi. Through their art they could lift water from a great depth. The ancients also called magicians (illusionists) mechanics or thaumasiourgoi. Many of them, like Hero in his Pneumatika, used the arts of weather or wind. Filippo Pigafetta, 1581, repeated the thought of Pappus, that by means of mechanics large weights can be set in motion with small or weaker force. Magganon means the machine of war to hurl stones and arrows, lat. ballista. Magganarios according to the ancient Greeks, meant: swindler, magician, illusionist as well.

Automaton and automatic have a different meaning in the 20th century than in classical antiquity or in the 18th century. Automaton can be understood as that which is self driven, as voluntary or as that which is coincidental. The thing lacking will is an automaton, and the voluntary recedes in this case. The automaton has no self-determination. Automatic is that which happens without a loss of time. The effect of mechanical motion under this condition can be reckoned without the quantum of time and in independence of external moments. A machine is automatically driven without self-determination according to the notion in the 15th and 16th century. The mechanical clock was so conceived in this period. The engienen (machines) were understood as automatons, not as self-motors or self-actors. The mechanical view of nature had been changed from the 17th to the 18th century. Since our laws of mechanics are other than the laws of the 17th century, there is a different mechanical understanding in the 20th century than in the 17th.

15 15. This is based on the duodecimal system of numbers which was widespread in the world far beyond Eurasia. The Chinese divided the day into 12 units, which for the Europeans each unit would be two hours. There was a struggle between the two systems. The conceptions of Fibonacci, ←187 | 188→Pacioli, Schreittmann, Stevin among others were refuted by the French philosopher of nature Buffon, who argued on behalf of the duodecimal system in the 18th century. Duodecimal societies were established in vain. The philosopher Leibniz supported the founding of arithmetic on the binary system. The decimal system in Europe was victorious over the duodecimal system in the measurement of temperature and space; the Celsius system of the measurement of temperature, further meters and kilometers, were widely employed. Even in weights the decimal system dominated. In the measurement of time the system of the twelves remained the victor in the counting of hours and months. However, this victory of the duodecimal system in the measurement of time is contradictory, for the chronological order of the year, decades and centuries is related to the decimal system. In everyday life the decimal system is dominant for counting, coinage, the reckoning of weight and distance, but not in the measurement of time. Ten thousand has another history of meaning. The Chinese have the word wan, Japanese ban, ten thousand; the Greeks have myriad, which can mean long, many, eternal. רבבה Rawawah in Hebrew means ten thousand, a large amount, an indeterminate large number. Groshundert is the compound of elements of the decimal and of the duodecimal system. Karl Menninger, Zahlwort und Ziffer, 3rd edition, Göttingen 1979. Georges Ifrah, Universalgeschichte der Zahlen, 2nd edition, Frankfurt am Main 1978. Tobias Dantzig, Number, 4th edition, New York 1954. Bernhard Karlgren, Analytic Dictionary of Chinese and Sino-Japanese, Paris 1923. Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, Lexikon in Veteris Testamenti, Leiden 1958.

16 16. O. Johannsen. Geschichte des Eisens. 3rd edition, Düsseldorf 1953. It is possible that metal workers in the 13th century also built mechanical clocks.

17 17. A. Lautink-Ferguson, Nature, Vol. 330, 1987.

18 18. Among these clocks from the 14th century 5 were in England, 6 in Italy, 9 in the German-speaking areas, 8 in the Netherlands, 8 in France and one or two in other countries. Further, in the 15th century 15 or 20 mechanical clocks were installed, among them a weighted clock [Waguhr] with a pull weight and a gear wheel clock.

19 19. The method of discovery is varied. Sometimes the clock is present, even though in a changed condition, sometimes on the contrary, one reads in the archives, that a certain clock is exhibited with engienen. F. M. Feldhaus, Die Technik, Potsdam 1931. Idem. Die Maschine, Basel 1954. C. M. Cipolla, Clocks and Culture, New York 1978. D. Landes, Revolution in Time, Harvard 1983. H. A. Lloyd, Mechanical Timekeepers, C. Singer et al. (eds.), A History of Technology, Vol. 3, Oxford 1957. K. Maurice, Die deutsche Räderuhr, Munich 1976. L. Reti, The Unknown Leonardo, New York 1946. Lautink-Ferguson (see above).

20 20. K. Maurice, Die deutsche Räderuhr, ibid., vol. 1. H. Tait, Clocks and Watches, British Museum 1983.

21 21. J. J. Baumann, Die Lehren von Raum, Zeit und Mathematik, Vol. 1 (1868), Frankfurt am Main 1981. K. Lasswitz, Geschichte der Atomistik vom Mittelalter bis Newton, (1890), Hildesheim 1984. E. T. Dijksterhuis, Die Mechanisierung des Weltbildes, Berlin 1983. P. Duhem, L évolution de la mécanique, Paris 1905. E. Mach, Die Mechanik, (1883), Darmstadt 1976. F. M. Feldhaus (see above), S. Sambursky, Physical Thought, New York 1975. G. T. Fechner, Über die physikalische und philosophische Atomlehre, 2nd edition, Leipzig 1864. E. Cassirer (Individuum und Kosmos in der Philosophie der Renaissance, Leipzig and Berlin 1927) treats the problem macrocosm/microcosm in the 15th and 16th century as a network of analogies of the metaphysical kind.

22 22. Adam Ries, Rechenbuch auf Linien und Ziffern, Frankfurt am Main 1574. The division of seconds into tierces was theoretical, the hours in 4 years are counted one after the other. “Terz” [tierce] as a fraction of a second in not listed in Grimm’s dictionary. In 1474 Cardinal Nikolaus von Cuso criticized the deplorable condition [Übelstand] of the Julian Calendar. Reform of the calendar ←188 | 189→was introduced in the 16th century by Pope Gregory VII. The ideas of Nicholas von Cuso, of Pope Gregory VII, as well as by Dürer, Luther and Adam Ries, point to a deep consciousness of time in the 15th and 16th century—in practice as in theory.

23 23. Adam Ries wrote about the number of days and months of a year: “To know that a year is reckoned as 365 and ¼ days is to complete the breach. Thus, one waited for a long time, until 4 years had run out, before giving the fourth year an additional day for 4/4. The next year prior to Christ’s birth was a leap year and received 366 days. This is the reason why the number of years is divided in 4 (to recognize a leap year) and without remainder, is a leap year, that 1556 as well as 1560 are leap years, then divided in 4. Leaving no remainder, the years have such an order. Initially established by Julius Caesar with the help of the famous mathematician Sosigenes, it has now defended itself more than 1600 years. Yet the years are in fact a little too long. There is nothing more to be said about this here.” The months are in length and in succession the same in the 15th and 16th century as they are today. Adam Ries, Rechenbuch auf Linien und Ziffern, corrected edition, Frankfurt am Main 1574. Whether the years 1600 and 2000 are leap years or not was an open question. For us the year 2000 is not a leap year.

24 24. E. T. Dijksterhuis (see above) suggested the distinction between mechanical and mechanistic. Mechanization is related to the view of the world according to his conception. Mechanics as we have already seen, is related to the analysis and composition of the laws of mechanics under given conditions. Mechanics is the conception of the sciences according to a mechanical model, whether it be of the science of celestial bodies, of life, of psychology or another field of the consequence of mechanical laws. The unlimited application of mechanical laws to life, to psychology, to human society and history in the same sense as they are applied to the movement of celestial bodies is a fantasy. The program of the mechanical philosophy of the 17th century is inadequate for the explanation and theory of the world, of nature and of the human being.

25 25. F. M. Feldhaus, Die Maschine (see above), idem., Die Technik (see above). A. P. Usher, ‘Machines and Mechanism,’ in C. Singer et al., A History of Technology, Vol. 3, Oxford 1957. R. A. Salaman and F. Braudel listed the tools in the practice of manual labourers. They underestimated the number of them in Jost Ammans images in his Eigentliche Beschreibung aller Stände auf Erden, the so-called Ständebuch. They only listed the number of tools in the workshop of the carpenter, but other tools which were not illustrated in the woodcut, the carpenter had in common with the lathe workers and joiners. Such tools which did not appear in the carpenter’s workshop, ought to be added. Yet the conclusion by Salaman and Braudel is correct: there were increasingly more tools and instruments of labour introduced into the labour process in the 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th century. (R. A. Salaman, in: Singer et al., A History of Technology, vol. 3. F. Braudel, see above).

26 26. M. Luther, Von Kaufhandlung und Wucher, 1534. He also mentioned danger or risk as a factor in the reckoning of time and value.

27 27. W. Roscher, Geschichte der National-Oekonomik in Deutschland, Munich 1874.

28 28. In relation to the The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism the following is to be noted: Those who treat this ethic or spirit, have focused on the entrepreneurs. The working class is supposed to have been moved by another spirit. On the one hand, the discussions of Max Weber, Ernst Troeltsch and Werner Sombart have taken the ethic of the capitalist class into account, on the other hand, we have taken up the investigations taken up by Schoenlank and Schanz who emphasized the standpoint of the labourer. The labourers were concerned with pay, free time, working conditions, like fresh air, light and warmth, in opposition to the entrepreneurs concerns regarding profit, risk and asceticism.

←189 | 190→

29 29. B. Schoenlank, G. Schanz, ‘Gesellenverbände (Deutschland).’ Handwörterbuch der Staatswissenschaften, 3rd edition, J. Conrad et al. (eds.), Jena 1909—Bruno Schoenlank, Soziale Kämpfe (see above).

30 30. Further all those in service obtain bread, wine and cheese (payment in kind) according to rank. K. T. v. Inama-Sternegg, Deutsche Wirtschaftgeschichte, Vol. 3, 1. 1899, p. 425. Of the attendants distributed among 28 kinds of workshops, nine sorts of workshops were counted as having the additional money value of clothing as part of their recompense. Six received in addition tips, ten an additional recompense in payment in kind, brats and intestines for the prelate’s cook, wages in crops and hay for the Stadler and major domo. All of the 33 to 35 attendants were fundamentally recompensed with money. The bakers’ underlings’ portion of bread was replaced with money. The attendants of the foundation were subsumed under the prelate in the hierarchy of the church. The foundation produced no commodities, neither was it self-sufficient, but rather dependent on alms, to which the sundry emoluments of the master cook and of the 1st kitchen attendants refer. Reapers and thrashers worked for daily wages, insofar as they did not serve in forced collective labour. The transition to the money economy and wage labour developed but not however completely. The arborist, the publican, the smith, the sacristan, the assistant organ player, the mariner and Sagmeister were only recompensed with payments in kind. The master carpenter as well as the book binder received a daily wage, and additionally clothing for each with a money value of 6 shillings. The wages amounted to 737 shillings per annum. Inama-Sternegg provides the sum of 753 shillings. The difference is 16 shillings. If we halve the difference between the herewith provided reckoning of the annual wage and that of Inama-Sternegg and divide it equally, the annual wage of the master carpenter and of the book binder amounts to 8 shillings (re-calculated). The value of clothing amounts to 66 shillings 20 pfennigs. If we figure that 1 shilling (Austrian, also Swabian) has 30 pfennigs, then the sums of Inama-Sternegg agree with ours. The difference of money wages of 16 shillings are distributed to the daily wages of the master carpenters and of the book binders. Otherwise the question involving the sums of Inama-Sternegg is inexplicable. The halving of the difference is only a conjecture, in order to simplify the solution to our problem not however the problem of economic life. For the computation of the Austrian shilling and pfennigs, see Adam Ries, Rechenbuch auf Linien und Ziffern, Frankfurt am Main 1574, p. 108 verso and 109.

31 31. Schock was a unit of measure of 60 pieces of something. See Grimm, pp. 1430–1434. Schock was a currency notion in Saxony, Bohemia and Silesia. See Friedrich Albrecht Riemann: Vollständiges Handbuch der Münzen, Maße und Gewichte aller Länder der Erde. Quedlinburg und Leipzig 1830, S. 304 f., 24, 115. Other translators render it as „shock Groschen.”

32 32. S. Franck, Deutsche Chronik, 1538. Abel, ibid.

33 33. B. Schoenlank, Soziale Kämpfe vor dreihundert Jahren, Altnürnbergische Studien, 2nd edition, Leipzig 1907. R. Endres, Zur Einwohnerzahl und Bevölkerungsstruktur Nürnbergs im 15./16. Jahrhundert. Mitteilungen des Vereins für Geschichte der Stadt Nürnberg, Vol. 57. 1970.

34 34. K. Bücher, Die Bevölkerung von Frankfurt am Main in XIV. und XV. Jahrhundert, Tübingen 1886.

35 35. B. Schoenlank, Soziale Kämpfe …, ibid. Since the system of coinage was uneven, we make the following comments. In Nuremberg, Franconia, Thuringen and Meissen were 30 pennies = 1 lb. The gulden had 252 pennies. 1 gulden in Nuremberg and Franconia had 816 pennies. 1 groshen = 12 pennies, 1 gulden = 21 groshen, 1 gulden had 15 Batzen, 60 kreuzers are a gulden. 14 Batzen 4 kreuzers are a gulden. In Frankfurt am Main and in Swabia the value of coins were different. In Frankfurt 1 Nuremberg kreuzer was 4 1/5 pennies. The parts of the shilling in ←190 | 191→Swabia and Austria are equal to the parts of the pound in Nuremberg. Adam Ries. Rechenbuch. Frankfurt 1574. Beer was no longer given in Nuremberg. In 1658 for a pound of pork 4 ½ to 5 kreuzers were paid, for a pound of beef or veal 4 ½ kreuzers and in the year 1597 4 ½ florins for 16 Metzen grain.

36 36. W. Abel. Agrarpreise und Agrarkonjunktur, 3rd edition, Hamburg 1978.

37 37. R. Endres, Zur Einwohnerzahl … Nürenbergs, 1970 (see above). Add to this tips and allowance for dangers (for the roofers). Vespers’ money amounted to 4 pennies, cash money 2–4 pennies, that was banned by the council in 1597.

38 38. O. Johannsen, Geschichte des Eisens, 3rd edition, Dusseldorf 1953. B. Schoenlank, G. Schanz, R. Endres, R. S. Elkar and Winfried Reininghaus committed themselves to oppose the sentimental treatment of medieval labour relations.

39 39. J. Kulischer, Allgemeine Wirtschaftsgeschichte, Vol. 1, Munich 1958.

40 40. J. Strieder, Studien zur Geschichte kapitalistischer Organisationsformen, 2nd edition, Munich 1925 (see above).

41 41. H. Kellenbenz, Technik und Wirtschaft, K. Borchardt (ed.), Europäische Wirtschaftsgeschichte 16–17. Jahrhundert, Stuttgart 1979.

42 42. For further information regarding these forms of organization please see Chapter I above.

43 43. Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations (1776). G. W. F. Hegel (see below).

44 44. In this sense, the notion of John Hicks, who was mentioned above, is understandable. The mercantilists had considered the merchants as a tool in service to the state. The cameralists were the mercantilists of Central Europe. Joseph Schumpeter, Geschichte der ökonomischen Analyse (see above).

45 45. Schumpeter (loco citato, Part II, chapter 3), The principles of taxation of Diomede Carafa were continued by Adam Smith. In The Wealth of Nations the state as a harvester of taxes was not more than a night watchman. For the cameralists, theory and practice is an endorsement of the public interest, the teaching of Adam Smith that of the private. The scholars of a previous generation, like G. Schmoller and J. Kulischer, put the emphasis of mercantilism on the creation of privileged industrial enterprises of the town companies. Mercantilism was “one of an expanded economic politics on a larger territory.” This viewpoint is part of a larger problem, that relates to the role of the state in the political economy.

46 46. G. W. F. Hegel in his Enzyklopädie der Philosophischen Wissenschaften, 1830. Part 3, § 544, treated the counter-position of the private person, of the corresponding interests and of the state in a historical-concrete fashion. “The estate authorities include all those who belong to civil society in general and to this extent are private persons,and who take part in the exercise of governmental power especially in regard to legislation, namely to the universality of interests, which does not relate to the appearance and action of the state as an individual (like in war and peace) and therefore does not belong exclusively to the nature of the Elector’s power.”

“For as private persons the members of the assembly of the estates are to be taken first, they are to serve as individuals for themselves or as representatives of the many or of the people.” The privileged corporations serve as examples of the private interest of bourgeois society in the feudal condition. Here we relate the formation of the private interests, in opposition to the public, to the class oppositions. We have observed the two oppositions in their continuing development in modern times. The guild system was unambiguous in its origin, and it was treated lastly as an association of private persons by the instances of the state. In the middle of its historical course it served as an instrument of public administration.

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47 47. F. M. Feldhaus, Die Maschine im Leben der Völker, Basel 1954. This is not only about the Fugger concern, but rather also about capitalist enterprises in all countries at that time.

48 48. The numbers of poor, of the middle class and of the wealthy from different parts of Germany in the 16th century in: R. Endres, Zur Einwohnerzahl … Nürnbergs, 1970.

49 49. The patricians of the German towns, Augsburg, Nuremberg, Mainz, among others were subordinate to the noble estate in the empire. The towns were free imperial cities, the patricians were masters in them, and they dominated the council. The German patriciate was distinguished from the ancient Roman and from the medieval patriciate in Venice, Genoa and other Italian cities mainly through the fact that these were the upper stratum. The Roman patrician was an aristocrat (nobilis), the Venetian a member of the first estate. The German patrician in the 15th and 16th century was not a gentleman (Gentilon) who, as Hans Sachs says, could be elected Duke, so that governance was still open to him (Hans Sachs, Eigentliche Beschreibung aller Stände).

50 50. Schoenlank and Schanz, Handwörterbuch (see above).