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Capitalism: A Short History

by Jrgen Kocka Princeton University Press
Pub Date:
Hbk 208 pages
AU$54.99 NZ$56.51
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In this book, one of the worlds most renowned historians provides a concise and comprehensive history of capitalism in global perspective from its medieval origins to the 2008 financial crisis and beyond. From early commercial capitalism in the Arab world, China, and Europe, to nineteenth- and twentieth-century industrialization, to todays globalized financial capitalism, Jrgen Kocka offers an unmatched, balanced account of capitalism, one that weighs its huge achievements against its great costs, crises, and failures. Based on intensive research, the book puts the rise of capitalist economies in social, political, and cultural context, and shows how their current problems and foreseeable future are connected to a long history.

Sweeping in scope, the book describes how capitalist expansion was connected to colonialism; how industrialism brought unprecedented innovation, growth, and welfare but also increasing inequality; and how managerialism, financialisation, and globalization later changed the face of capitalism. The book also addresses the idea of capitalism in the work of thinkers such as Marx, Weber, and Schumpeter, and chronicles how criticism of capitalism is as old as capitalism itself, fed by its persistent contradictions and recurrent emergencies.

Authoritative and accessible, Capitalism provides an enlightening account of a force that has shaped the modern world like few others.

Preface to the English Edition vii
1. What Does Capitalism Mean? 1
The Emergence of a Controversial Concept 1
Three Classics: Marx, Weber, and Schumpeter 7
Other Voices and a Working Definition 16
2. Merchant Capitalism 25
China and Arabia 26
Europe: Dynamic Latecomer 35
Interim Findings around 1500 49
3. Expansion 54
Business and Violence: Colonialism and World Trade 54
Joint-Stock Company and Finance Capitalism 58
Plantation Economy and Slavery 65
Agrarian Capitalism, Mining, and Proto-Industrialization 70
Capitalism, Culture, and Enlightenment: Adam Smith in Context 84
4. The Capitalist Era 95
The Contours of Industrialization and Globalization since 1800 96
From Ownership to Managerial Capitalism 104
Financialization 114
Work in Capitalism 124
Market and State 145
5. Analysis and Critique 162
Notes 171
Bibliography 181
Index of Names 197

“Capitalism is a terrifically valuable book, distinguished by its breadth of learning, clarity, and concision. Its description and analysis is combined with a surety of judgment based on Kocka’s long contemplation of the subject.”—Jerry Muller, Catholic University of America

“Jürgen Kocka is one of the most distinguished European historians of his generation and his books are always significant events. This compact little book has all of his virtues: it’s extremely clear and conceptually tight as well as very succinct.”—Geoff Eley, University of Michigan
Jrgen Kocka is a permanent fellow at Humboldt University of Berlin and a former president of the WZB Berlin Social Science Center. In 2011, he received the Holberg Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in the scholarly world.