Most scholarship on nineteenth-century America’s transformation into a market society has focused on consumption, romanticized visions of workers, and analysis of firms and factories. Building on but moving past these studies, Capitalism Takes Command presents a history of family farming, general incorporation laws, mortgage payments, inheritance practices, office systems, and risk management—an inventory of the means by which capitalism became America’s new revolutionary tradition.
This multidisciplinary collection of essays argues not only that capitalism reached far beyond the purview of the economy, but also that the revolution was not confined to the destruction of an agrarian past. As business ceaselessly revised its own practices, a new demographic of private bankers, insurance brokers, investors in securities, and start-up manufacturers, among many others, assumed center stage, displacing older elites and forms of property. Explaining how capital became an “ism” and how business became a political philosophy, Capitalism Takes Command brings the economy back into American social and cultural history.