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Towards a Bourgeois Revolution? Explaining the American Civil War

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[AbstractThis paper introduces arguments from Slavery, Capitalism, and Politics in the Antebellum Republic1 to suggest that the Civil War arose ultimately because of class-conflict between on the one hand, Southern slaves and their masters and, on the other, Northern workers and their employers. It does not, however, suggest that either in the North or the South these conflicts were on the point of erupting into revolution. On the contrary, they were relatively easily containable. However, harmony within each section (North and South) could be secured only at the cost of intersectional conflict, conflict which would finally erupt into civil war. The Civil War was a ‘bourgeois revolution’ not only because it destroyed slavery, an essentially precapitalist system of production, in the United States but also because it resulted in the enthronement of Northern values, with the normalisation of wage-labour at their core., Abstract This paper introduces arguments from Slavery, Capitalism, and Politics in the Antebellum Republic 1 to suggest that the Civil War arose ultimately because of class-conflict between on the one hand, Southern slaves and their masters and, on the other, Northern workers and their employers. It does not, however, suggest that either in the North or the South these conflicts were on the point of erupting into revolution. On the contrary, they were relatively easily containable. However, harmony within each section (North and South) could be secured only at the cost of intersectional conflict, conflict which would finally erupt into civil war. The Civil War was a ‘bourgeois revolution’ not only because it destroyed slavery, an essentially precapitalist system of production, in the United States but also because it resulted in the enthronement of Northern values, with the normalisation of wage-labour at their core.]

Affiliations: 1: University of Nottinghamjohn.ashworth@nottingham.ac.uk

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