The American road to capitalism : studies in class-structure, economic development, and political conflict, 1620-1877


The American road to capitalism : studies in class-structure, economic development, and political conflict, 1620-1877

by Charles Post ; with a foreword by Ellen Meiksins Wood

(Historical materialism book series, v. 28)

Brill, 2011

  • : hardback

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Includes bibliographical references (p. [279]-293) and index



Most US historians assume that capitalism either "came in the first ships" or was the inevitable result of the expansion of the market. Unable to analyze the dynamics of specific forms of social labour in the antebellum US, most historians of the US Civil War have privileged autonomous political and ideological factors, ignoring the deep social roots of the conflict. This book applies theoretical insights derived from the debates on the transition to capitalism in Europe to the historical literature on the US to produce a new analysis of the origins of capitalism in the US, and the social roots of the Civil War. Winner of the Paul Sweezy Marxist Sociology Book Award 2013 Short-listed for the 2011 Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Memorial Prize.


Foreword by Ellen Meiksins Wood Introduction 1. The American Road to Capitalism i. Plantation-slavery ii. Agrarian petty-commodity production iii. Capitalist manufacture and industry iv. Conclusion: the Civil War 2. The Agrarian Origins of US Capitalism: The Transformation of the Northern Countryside before the Civil War i. Rural class-structure in the North before the Civil War ii. Debating the transformation of northern agriculture iii. The transformation of the northern countryside, c. 1776-1861 3. Plantation-Slavery and Economic Development in the Antebellum Southern United States i. The `planter-capitalism' model ii. The `non-bourgeois civilisation' model iii. Class-structure and economic development in the antebellum-South 4. Agrarian Class-Structure and Economic Development in Colonial British North America: The Place of the American Revolution in the Origins of US Capitalism i. The commercialisation-staples model ii. The demographic-frontier model iii. Agrarian social-property relations in colonial British North America iv. Colonial economic development, the American Revolution, and the development of capitalism in the US, 1776-1861 5. Social-Property Relations, Class-Conflict and the Origins of the US Civil War: Toward a New Social Interpretation i. Ashworth's social interpretation of the US Civil War ii. A critique of slavery, capitalism and politics in the antebellum-republic iii. Toward a new social interpretation of the US Civil War Conclusion: Democracy against Capitalism in the Post-Civil-War United States i. Democracy against capitalism in the North: radicalism, class-struggle and the rise of liberal democracy, 1863-77 ii. Democracy against capitalism in the South: the rise and fall of peasant-citizenship, 1865-77 iii. The defeat of populism, `Jim Crow' and the establishment of capitalist plantation-agriculture in the South, 1877-1900 References Index

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