Capitalism Takes CommandThe Social Transformation of Nineteenth-Century America

Capitalism Takes CommandThe Social Transformation of Nineteenth-Century America

Michael Zakim and Gary J. Kornblith

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226451091

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Most scholarship on nineteenth-century America’s transformation into a market society has focused on consumption, romanticized visions of workers, and analysis of firms and factories. Building on but moving past these studies, this book presents a history of family farming, general incorporation laws, mortgage payments, inheritance practices, office systems, and risk management—an inventory of the means by which capitalism became America’s new revolutionary tradition. This multidisciplinary collection of essays argues not only that capitalism reached far beyond the purview of the economy, but also that the revolution was not confined to the destruction of an agrarian past. As business ceaselessly revised its own practices, a new demographic of private bankers, insurance brokers, investors in securities, and start-up manufacturers, among many others, assumed center stage, displacing older elites and forms of property. Explaining how capital became an “ism” and how business became a political philosophy, it brings the economy back into American social and cultural history.