The Idea of Capitalism before the Industrial Revolution

The Idea of Capitalism before the Industrial Revolution

by Richard Grassby
     
 

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Invented in post-industrial 19th century Europe, the idea of capitalism originally sought to describe and explain the distinctive characteristics of an emerging modern world. Since then, capitalism has served to identify an economic system, a particular social structure, and a set of cultural values and mental attitudes. The subject of continuous debate among scholars

Overview

Invented in post-industrial 19th century Europe, the idea of capitalism originally sought to describe and explain the distinctive characteristics of an emerging modern world. Since then, capitalism has served to identify an economic system, a particular social structure, and a set of cultural values and mental attitudes. The subject of continuous debate among scholars for more than a century, capitalism has been accorded so many definitions, it is now virtually meaningless. Depending upon the interpreter, capitalism is synonymous with the market economy, the division of labor, credit creation, economic concentration, social polarization, class formation, the decline of kinship and community, patriarchy, property rights, contracts, acquisitiveness, the work ethic, conspicuous consumption, individualism and entrepreneurship. Noted economic historian Richard Grassby investigates the origins and evolution of the idea of capitalism to illustrate for readers the true nature, merits, and the future of capitalism. Grassby examines its numerous and often conflicting definitions, and he tests alternative models of capitalism against the historical record to establish when, where, how, and why modern economies and societies emerged. Although Grassby argues that capitalism is a concept with diminished explanatory power, he shows the influence of this powerful idea on the formation of the world we live in. This is required reading for classes on World history, modern European history, and economic history.

Editorial Reviews

Richard F. Teichgraeber
This book appears at a time when the bloody struggle between capitalism and socialism unexpectedly seems to have ended, and now we must wonder why capitalism triumphed and where it is leading us. . . . The result according to Grassby, is an idea that retains symbolic importance.
Frank Melton
This much needed attack upon the abuses of the terminology and concepts of capitalism should be required reading for students and professors in history, the social sciences, and perhaps, most of all, the humanities. Grassby has written a brilliant essay, based upon vast learning.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781461644446
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
10/13/1999
Series:
Critical Issues in World and International History
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
138
File size:
434 KB

What People are saying about this

Frank Melton
Grassby has written a brilliant essay, based upon vast learning.

Meet the Author

Former Oxford Professor, Woodrow Wilson International Center Fellow, and current member at the Institute for Advanced Studies, Richard Grassby has written several books on economic history—most recently, Kinship and Capitalism (Cambridge ) and The Business Community of Seventeenth Century England (Cambridge).

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