by James Parisot
Pluto Press, 2019
Paper: 978-0-7453-3787-6 | Cloth: 978-0-7453-3788-3
Library of Congress Classification HB501.P292 2019
Dewey Decimal Classification 330.1220973

No nation in the history of the world has been more closely identified with capitalism than the United States. Capitalism, politicians and business leaders confidently assert, is and always has been at the heart of the American dream.

Not so fast, says James Parisot. In How America Became Capitalist, he tells the little-known story of how our economic system came to be, and of the alternatives that were sidelined along the way. Capitalist elements were apparent from the first colonies of white settlers, but they were far from dominant, and they weren’t the driving factor in the advancement of colonies deeper into the continent. Even slavery, which was at the heart of both American capitalism and imperialism throughout much of the nation’s growth, was less a monolithic force than a series of complicated encounters that took different forms. Individual difference slowed the homogenization of capitalism as well, as transgender people, gays and lesbians, and people in interracial relationships all brought complexity to the market’s idea of the typical household.

At a moment when the long-term viability of capitalism is coming increasingly into question, How America Became Capitalist reminds us that the path to its dominance was never so smooth, nor so complete, as its champions would have us believe.

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