Guide Capitalists in Spite of Themselves: Elite Conflict and European Transitions in Early Modern Europe

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  1. Capitalists in Spite of Themselves - Paperback - Richard Lachmann - Oxford University Press
  2. Additional Information
  3. Capitalists in Spite of Themselves

Capitalists in Spite of Themselves is a compelling narrative of how elites and other classes made and responded to political and religious revolutions while gradually creating the nation-states and capitalist markets which still constrain our behavior and order our world. It will prove invaluable for anyone wishing to understanding the economic and social history of early modern Europe. The Limits of Urban Capitalism 4.

Capitalists in Spite of Themselves - Paperback - Richard Lachmann - Oxford University Press

A Dead End and a Detour: Spain and the Netherlands 6. Religions and Ideology 8. It is not simply one more study that repackages familiar arguments in new rhetoric. It proposes a novel synthesis of ideas derived from Marxist class analysis and theories of elite conflict. He then deploys this reasoning in a diverse and compelling series of case studies of medieval and early modern Europe written in an engaging and accessible manner.

This book should be read, studied, and debated by anyone interested in large-scale historical processes of social change. Writing in the tradition of Max Weber and drawing on extensive original research, Lachmann offers an important new interpretation of the social changes that resulted in the economic and cultural transformation of Europe between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries.

Additional Information

Capitalists in Spite of Themselves should be read by all social scientists who have been interested in the rise of commercial and industrial capitalism. Capitalists in Spite of Themselves: Here, Richard Lachmann offers a new answer to an old question: Finding neither a single cause nor an essentialist unfolding of a state or capitalist system, Lachmann describes the highly contingent development of various polities and economies. He identifies, in particular, conflict among feudal elites--landlords, clerics, kings, and officeholders--as the dynamic which perpetuated manorial economies in some places while propelling elites elsewhere to transform the basis of their control over land and labor.

Comparing regions and cities within and across England, France, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands from the twelfth through eighteenth centuries, Lachmann breaks new ground by showing step by step how the new social relations and political institutions of early modern Europe developed.

Capitalists in Spite of Themselves

Aside from the postulated mechanics of the processes, it is a little disconcerting to find that the typologies of elites are asserted more than demonstrated. None of this fits naturally into the thinking of economists and economic historians.


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When we come to the divergence between England and France, we are told that the clue lies in the relative power of the Crown to eliminate rivals and form local ties. On the one hand it escaped from a bucolic peasantry able to hold onto its plots and consume the produce and on the other hand avoided a parasitic state elite. The English gentry did not need to invest in politics in order to keep their estates.

They secured the proceeds of productivity growth engineered by the yeomen, without suppressing productivity levels. According to Allen their capital was not usefully invested, though Lachmann has found a source that prompts him to emphasize the share going into the funding of state debt, military campaigns to obtain foreign markets, and passive investment in industry. The issue would be usefully approached regionally, which Lachmann shies away from doing.


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Indeed he chides Goldstone and Thirsk, of all people, for over-simplifying English agricultural regions and by implication with bothering with regionalization. It is scarcely justified to carry on the debate merely at national and occasionally county levels. Both those units are semi-arbitrary, like all divisions. Treating England as a single unit will not do for important purposes.


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  • Elite Conflict and European Transitions in Early Modern Europe.
  • Capitalists in Spite of Themselves: Elite Conflict and Economic Transitions in Early Modern Europe?

Their capital was not so much created and wasted on the land as immolated there by the purchasers of estates who continually brought it in from London trade, finance, the law, and public office. Nevertheless, we do not really know what the proportions were, how much passive investing outside the countryside the landowners undertook, or where most industrial capital came from. Once upon a time there was something called the Time magazine effect.