The Origin of Capitalism

The Origin of Capitalism

by Ellen Meiksins Wood
     
 

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Few questions of history have as many contemporary political implications as this deceptively simple one: how did capitalism come to be?

In this clarifying work, Ellen Meiksins Wood refutes most existing accounts of the origin of capitalism, which, she argues, fail to recognize capitalism's distinctive attributes as a social system, making it seem a culmination of a

Overview

Few questions of history have as many contemporary political implications as this deceptively simple one: how did capitalism come to be?

In this clarifying work, Ellen Meiksins Wood refutes most existing accounts of the origin of capitalism, which, she argues, fail to recognize capitalism's distinctive attributes as a social system, making it seem a culmination of a natural human inclination to sell and buy.

Wood begins with searching assessments of classical thinkers ranging from Adam Smith to Max Weber. She then explores the great Marxist debates among writers such as Paul Sweezy, Maurice Dobb, Robert Brenner, Perry Anderson, and E. P. Thompson. She concludes with her own account of capitalism's agrarian origin, challenging the association of capitalism with cities, the identification of "capitalist" with "bourgeois, " and conceptions of modernity and postmodernity derived from those assumptions.

Only with a proper understanding of capitalism's beginning, Wood concludes, can we imagine the possibility of it ending.

Editorial Reviews

Matthew Kopka
This brief and powerful book, quite possibly destined for classic status, argues that capitalism is a distinctive way of supplying the material needs of human beings that has existed only briefly, and that is very different from all preceding ways of organizing material life.
American Book Review
Booknews
Challenges most existing accounts of capitalism's origins, arguing that they fail to recognize its distinctive attributes as a social system by making its emergence seem natural and inevitable. Assesses the ideas of classical thinkers ranging from Adam Smith to Max Weber, then explores the great Marxist debates among writers such as Paul Sweezy and Maurice Dobb. Gives an original account of capitalism's agrarian origin, challenging conceptions of modernity and postmodernity, the association of capitalism with cities, the identification of "capitalist" with "bourgeois." Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknew.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781583670002
Publisher:
Monthly Review Press
Publication date:
03/01/1999
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
120
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.45(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Ellen Meiksins Wood is co-editor of Monthly Review; author of many books, including The Pristine Culture of Capitalism (1991) and Democracy Against Capitalism (1995); and co-editor of In Defense of History (1995).

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