American Capitalism

New Histories

Sven Beckert and Christine Desan, eds

Columbia University Press

American Capitalism

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Pub Date: February 2018

ISBN: 9780231185240

448 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $38.00£31.95

Pub Date: February 2018

ISBN: 9780231546065

448 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $37.99£31.95

American Capitalism

New Histories

Sven Beckert and Christine Desan, eds

Columbia University Press

The United States has long epitomized capitalism. From its enterprising shopkeepers, wildcat banks, violent slave plantations, huge industrial working class, and raucous commodities trade to its world-spanning multinationals, its massive factories, and the centripetal power of New York in the world of finance, America has come to symbolize capitalism for two centuries and more. But an understanding of the history of American capitalism is as elusive as it is urgent. What does it mean to make capitalism a subject of historical inquiry? What is its potential across multiple disciplines, alongside different methodologies, and in a range of geographic and chronological settings? And how does a focus on capitalism change our understanding of American history?

American Capitalism presents a sampling of cutting-edge research from prominent scholars. These broad-minded and rigorous essays venture new angles on finance, debt, and credit; women’s rights; slavery and political economy; the racialization of capitalism; labor beyond industrial wage workers; and the production of knowledge, including the idea of the economy, among other topics. Together, the essays suggest emerging themes in the field: a fascination with capitalism as it is made by political authority, how it is claimed and contested by participants, how it spreads across the globe, and how it can be reconceptualized without being universalized. A major statement for a wide-open field, this book demonstrates the breadth and scope of the work that the history of capitalism can provoke.
Sven Beckert and Christine Desan are leaders in the burgeoning history of capitalism field, and they have put together a volume of outstanding scholars whose essays, in their chronological reach and subject matter, show this new literature at its best. A very fine and promising collection. Steven Hahn, New York University
This stunning volume not only captures the most vibrant, challenging work in the history of capitalism, but also distills the central themes and defining contributions of the field. The essays speak to all historians, not just those working in the history of capitalism. A must read. Laura F. Edwards, Duke University
American Capitalism represents the coming of age of a field of historical research. Rarely, in any field, has one volume featured the work of so many talented and accomplished historians. Each chapter breaks fresh ground and proposes new lines of inquiry. The editors have assembled a landmark and agenda-setting book that no student of economic life in the United States can afford to ignore. Jonathan Levy, University of Chicago
From the creditor constitution to the market for slave clothing to early American mercantilist thinking, this deftly curated book samples some of the best work that the history of capitalism literature has to offer. Readers interested in new and provocative explorations of the politics, law, and culture enmeshed in American economic institutions need look no further. Suresh Naidu, Columbia University
Few historical subfields are more important and timely than the critical history of capitalism. In this volume, Sven Beckert and Christine Desan have assembled cutting-edge work on topics as diverse as slavery, credit, insurance and risk, financial crises, race, gender, agriculture, and law and regulation. These essays combine chronological breadth, analytical depth, and geographic scope, linking the micro and macro, the local and the global. Essential reading. Thomas J. Sugrue, New York University
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Part I. Making Markets
1. The Capitalist Constitution, by Woody Holton
2. What Was the Great Bull Market? Value, Valuation, and Financial History, by Julia Ott
3. The New York City Fiscal Crisis and the Idea of the State 96, by Kim Phillips-Fein
Part II. Producing, Trading, and Trafficking as Human Relations
4. Utopian Capitalism, by Richard White
5. The Sovereign Market and Sex Difference: Human Rights in America, by Amy Drustanley
6. Negro Cloth: Mastering the Market for Slave Clothing in Antebellum America, by Seth Rockman
7. Revulsions of Capital: Slavery and Political Economy in the Epoch of the Turner Rebellion, Virginia,
1829–1832, by Christopher Tomlins
Part III. “Knowing” Capital
8. Risk, Uncertainty, and Data: Managing Risk in Twentieth-Century America, Mary Poovey
9. Representations of Capitalism in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, by Peter Knight
10. Value of Life: Insurance, Slavery, and Expertise, by Michael Ralph
Part IV. Refiguring Space from the Local to the Global
11. War by Other Means: Mercantilism and Free Trade in the Age of the American Revolution, by Eliga H. Gould
12. “Innovative Solutions to Modern Agriculture”: Capitalist Farming, Global Competition, and the Devolution of the U.S. Rice Industry, by Peter A. Coclanis
13. Importing the World’s Fair, by Michael Zakim
14. Plantation Dispossessions: The Global Travel of Agricultural Racial Capitalism, by Kris Manjapra
Selected Bibliography
List of Contributors
Index

About the Author

Sven Beckert is Laird Bell Professor of History at Harvard University and cofounder of the Program on the Study of Capitalism. He is the author of Empire of Cotton: A Global History (2014).

Christine Desan is Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard University and cofounder of the Program on the Study of Capitalism. She is the author of Making Money: Coin, Currency, and the Coming of Capitalism (2014).