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Social-Property Relations, Class-Conflict and the Origins of the US Civil War: Towards a New Social Interpretation*

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[AbstractThe origins of the US Civil War have long been a central topic of debate among historians, both Marxist and non-Marxist. John Ashworth’s Slavery, Capitalism, and Politics in the Antebellum Republic is a major Marxian contribution to a social interpretation of the US Civil War. However, Ashworth’s claim that the War was the result of sharpening political and ideological – but not social and economic – contradictions and conflicts between slavery and capitalism rests on problematic claims about the rôle of slave-resistance in the dynamics of plantation-slavery, the attitude of Northern manufacturers, artisans, professionals and farmers toward wage-labour, and economic restructuring in the 1840s and 1850s. An alternative social explanation of the US Civil War, rooted in an analysis of the specific path to capitalist social-property relations in the US, locates the War in the growing contradiction between the social requirements of the expanded reproduction of slavery and capitalism in the two decades before the War., Abstract The origins of the US Civil War have long been a central topic of debate among historians, both Marxist and non-Marxist. John Ashworth’s Slavery, Capitalism, and Politics in the Antebellum Republic is a major Marxian contribution to a social interpretation of the US Civil War. However, Ashworth’s claim that the War was the result of sharpening political and ideological – but not social and economic – contradictions and conflicts between slavery and capitalism rests on problematic claims about the rôle of slave-resistance in the dynamics of plantation-slavery, the attitude of Northern manufacturers, artisans, professionals and farmers toward wage-labour, and economic restructuring in the 1840s and 1850s. An alternative social explanation of the US Civil War, rooted in an analysis of the specific path to capitalist social-property relations in the US, locates the War in the growing contradiction between the social requirements of the expanded reproduction of slavery and capitalism in the two decades before the War.]

Affiliations: 1: City University of New Yorkcpost@bmcc.cuny.edu

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2011-01-01
2016-12-08

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