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The American Road To Capitalism

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Chapter Summary

This essay is an attempt to examine the theoretical and historiographical debates on the development of capitalism in the United States between 1790 and 1877. The realisation of the necessary conditions for capitalist production in the United States took place through the articulation, expanded reproduction and transformation of three forms of production: slavery, petty-commodity production and capitalist manufacture, and through a process of political class-struggle that culminated in the Civil War. Neither the notion that slavery is a variant of capitalist production, nor Genovese's formulations on the non-capitalist character of slavery are satisfactory. the expansion of plantation-slavery, at least in terms of its direct effects on the development of agrarian petty-commodity production, cannot be seen as a spur to the process of capitalist development in antebellum-America. The Civil War and Reconstruction thus marked the end of the US social formation's 'phase of transition'.

Keywords: Agrarian petty-commodity production; capitalism; capitalist manufacture; Civil War; plantation-slavery



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