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

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Here, Richard Lachmann offers a new answer to an old question: Why did capitalism develop in some parts of early modern Europe but not in others? 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. He demonstrates in detail how feudal elites were pushed toward capitalism as they sought to protect their privileges from rivals in the aftermath of the Reformation. 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.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 336 pages
  • 151.4 x 233.7 x 21.1mm | 494.42g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 0195159608
  • 9780195159608
  • 1,726,559

Review quote

"Thumbs in his galluses, Richard Lachmann swaggers down the boulevard of historical sociology, challenging just about everyone he sees to a match. Lachmann battles knowledgeably, and many an opponent emerges with bruises. Winners, losers, and spectators all end up wiser for Lachmann's bold exploration of European social change over a long, formative period." -Charles Tilly, Columbia University "Capitalists in Spite of Themselves reaches much beyond even its broad title, and yet its hallmark is precision, on trends, numbers, and nuances alike. It manages to focus an explicit argument about mechanisms of power upon each of a diverse array-of city states, empires, nations, provinces, but also of agricultural practices, manorial courts, monetary systems, and trade, across the past few centuries in Europe." -Harrison C. White, Columbia University "This long-awaited volume from Professor Lachmann is a major intellectual achievement. 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. Capitalists in Spite of Themselves should be read by all social scientists who have been interested in the rise of commercial and industrial capitalism." -Robert Wuthnow, Princeton University "Richard Lachmann's Capitalists in Spite of Themselves is a strikingly original and analytically powerful study of the transition from feudalism to capitalism in Western Europe. 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." -Erik Olin Wright, University of Wisconsin, Madisonshow more

Table of contents

1. Something Happened ; 2. Feudal Dynamics ; 3. The Limits of Urban Capitalism ; 4. State Formation ; 5. A Dead End and a Detour: Spain and the Netherlands ; 6. Elite Defensiveness and the Transformation of Class Relations in Britain and France ; 7. Religions and Ideology ; 8. Conclusion ; Notes ; Bibliographyshow more

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