The Monied Metropolis: New York City and the Consolidation of the American Bourgeoisie, 1850-1896 / Edition 1

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Overview

"Social classes, like fortunes, are made and remade, and invariably the two are linked. Tracing the shifting fortunes and changing character of New York City's economic elite over half a century, this book brings to light a neglected - and critical - chapter in the social history of the United States: the rise of an American bourgeoisie." "How a small and diverse group of New Yorkers came to wield unprecedented economic, social, and political power is the story that Sven Beckert pursues from 1850 to the turn of the nineteenth century. Blending social, intellectual, and political history, his book reveals the central role of the Civil War in realigning New York City's economic elite, as merchants began to shed their old allegiances to slavery and the Atlantic economy and to cede a greater share of economic power to industrialists. We then see how in the wake of Reconstruction the New York bourgeoisie reoriented its ideology, abandoning the free labor views of the antebellum years for laissez-faire liberalism. Finally, in the 1880s and 1890s, we observe the emergence of a fully self-conscious and inordinately powerful New York upper class." "Drawing on a remarkable range of sources - from tax lists to personal papers, credit ratings to congressional testimony - The Monied Metropolis provides a richly textured historical portrait of society redefining itself. Its reach extends well beyond New York, into the most important issues of social and political change in nineteenth-century America."--BOOK JACKET.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
By 1892, 27% of American millionaires resided in New York City, and the city's dominance as an epicenter for capitalist enterprise was so well established as to seem both natural and inevitable. Yet, as Harvard history professor Beckert demonstrates, New York's ascendance as the nation's most important hub of manufacturing and trade was less an inevitability than the result of a series of deft and determined maneuvers on the part of the city's economic elites (i.e., the aristocracy and the wealthy merchants). Despite having often divergent political and economic interests, the monied classes came, over the course of the second half of the 19th century, to recognize one another as allies in opposition to the lower classes, and consequently worked together to achieve a remarkable consolidation of power, with the result that "not presidents but prominent New York entrepreneurs... came to represent the age." Beckert examines the process through which this consolidation of power occurred, explaining how the responses of the city's most prominent merchants and manufacturers to national conflicts and crises, such as the Civil War and periods of economic depression and labor unrest in the late 1800s, enabled these bourgeois New Yorkers to wield progressively greater influence over the shape of both local and national economic policy. While Beckert's narrative suffers at times from the burden of minute detail, which may deter readers other than economic historians, this is, in general, a deftly told account of the Manhattan bourgeoisie's impressively shrewd negotiation of the ever-shifting terrain of the American political and economic landscape. As such, it yields thought-provoking insights into the ways in which power has been and continues to be acquired and exercised in the U.S. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
As broadcast by his title, Beckert (history, Harvard) locates the classical late 19th-century American capitalist coalition of major industry, big finance, and large-scale mercantilism securely in New York City. Beckert's ambitious history covers the Manhattan upper crust with the same thoroughness that Sean Wilentz's reserved for the pre-Civil War New York working class, but while Wilentz's brilliant Chants Democratic (LJ 3/15/84) displayed a singing prose style that has made him a celebrity intellectual, Beckert's flawlessly constructed treatise rewards only expert readership. The author demonstrates that the city's emergent industrial interests found common ground during the Civil War with the de facto pro-Southern mercantile elite and that the resulting alliance of Big Money and Big Manufacturing dominated national politics thereafter. Beckert's revisiting the private charity-public relief debate of the 1870s is a timely reminder that political discourse exists in a continuum. Academic libraries supporting the most serious research in modern U.S. urban, business, and social history will need this book for their collections, as will the major borough publics, but most general-interest libraries will want to pass. Scott H. Silverman, Bryn Mawr Coll. Lib., PA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A fascinating history of New York during the late 19th-century, a time when big money was changing the face of the city. The word"bourgeoisie" doesn't get much of a workout these days, now that Marxist-tinged analyses of the world have become suspect even within academia. But Beckert (History/Harvard Univ.) employs the term fearlessly to describe New York's mercantile class, whose members, in the early decades of the 19th century, tended to lead quiet, unostentatious private lives. That class, which included large numbers of traders and ship owners, owed much of its wealth to the international cotton trade, which bound New York to the South (and, in large measure, explains why the city gave only lukewarm support to the Union cause during much of the Civil War). In the postwar era, Beckert writes, the merchants' power was eroded by a new kind of capitalist, the manufacturer. Many of these newly wealthy industrialists, who profited greatly from the war and worked their way up from the shop floor to ownership, were inclined to more public displays of wealth. Shunned as arrivistes, they nonetheless gained supremacy over the better-established merchants. What is more, they had a stronger grasp of politics, and through various mechanisms they remade city and, later, state government into an arm that served their interests with private legislation and other species of cronyism. The new plutocracy asserted itself with huge mansions, soirees that aped the manners of the European nobility (the author often returns to a fancy dress party at the end of the century, to which dozens of New York's grandes dames came costumed as Marie Antoinette—whose fate,"they confidently believed, wouldnotbetheirs"), and other unsubtle displays of conspicuous consumption. Their arrival on the scene, Beckert insists, added a new dimension to the history of class struggle—and their influence on American politics endures in the age of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. "New York has taught me to put capital and capitalists closer to the center of modern history," Beckert writes. His account is a dazzlingly successful exercise in doing just that.
From the Publisher
"...a deftly told account of the Manhattan bourgeoisie's impressively shrewd negotiation of the ever-shifting terrain of the American political and economic landscape. As such, it yields thought-provoking insights into the ways in which power has been--and continues to be--acquired and exercised in the U.S." Publishers Weekly

"A fascinating history of New York during the late nineteenth-century, a time when big money was changing the face of the city....dazzingly successful." Kirkus

"...this is, in general, a deftly told account of the Manhattan bourgeoisie's impressively shrewd negotiation of the ever-shifting terrain of the American political and economic landscape. As such, it yields thought-provoking insights into the ways in which power has been - and continues to be - acquired and exercised in the U.S." Publishers Weekly

"A fascinating history of New York during the late 19th-century, a time when big money was changing the face of the city....dazzlingly successful." Kirkus Reviews

"...he has drawn deftly on an immense body of recent historical work on the period as well on extensive New York archives." William R. Taylor, washingtonpost.com

"...an exceptionally vivid and intelligent tour of a revolutionary class at the peak of its domination. It is indispensable for anyone wishing to understand how a profoundly class-bound society managed to convince itself that class was irrelevant to the U.S. experience." " Newark Star Ledger

Ruth Century contains an explosive theme...Profesor Beckert also draws several illuminating parallels between then and now." Dallas Morning Star

"...Mr. Beckert...even in our own post-Marzist age, this approach to history can still bear fruit." The New York Observer

"Steven Beckert's sober, scholarly study of New York in the 19th century contains an explosive theme: The wealthy class that ruled Gothsm and the rest of the nation did everything in its power to make sure that the working class did not advance from poverty(wait until you draws serveral illuminating parallels between then and now." Dallas Morning News

"Libraries will purchase The Monied Metropolis and historians will cite it." Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521524100
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 516
  • Sales rank: 589,571
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Table of Contents

Maps, Graphs, and Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Abbreviations
Introduction 1
Pt. I Fortunes, Manners, Politics 15
1 Accumulating Capital 17
2 Navigating the New Metropolis 46
3 The Politics of Capital 78
Pt. II Reluctant Revolutionaries 79
4 Bourgeois New Yorkers Go to War 81
5 The Spoils of Victory 145
6 Reconstructing New York 172
Pt. III A Bourgeois World 205
7 Democracy in the Age of Capital 207
8 The Culture of Capital 237
9 The Rights of Labor, The Rights of Property 273
10 The Power of Capital and the Problem of Legitimacy 293
Epilogue 323
Index 469
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