Capitalism: A Short History
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In this book, one of the world's most renowned historians provides a concise and comprehensive history of capitalism within a global perspective from its medieval origins to the 2008 financial crisis and beyond. From early commercial capitalism in the Arab world, China, and Europe, to nineteenth- and twentieth-century industrialization, to today's globalized financial capitalism, Jürgen Kocka offers an unmatched account of capitalism, one that weighs its great achievements against its great costs, crises, and failures. Based on intensive research, the book puts the rise of capitalist economies in social, political, and cultural context, and shows how their current problems and foreseeable future are connected to a long history.
Sweeping in scope, the book describes how capitalist expansion was connected to colonialism; how industrialism brought unprecedented innovation, growth, and prosperity but also increasing inequality; and how managerialism, financialization, and globalization later changed the face of capitalism. The book also addresses the idea of capitalism in the work of thinkers such as Marx, Weber, and Schumpeter, and chronicles how criticism of capitalism is as old as capitalism itself, fed by its persistent contradictions and recurrent emergencies.
Authoritative and accessible, Capitalism is an enlightening account of a force that has shaped the modern world like few others.
and two years, to distant ports, with several intermediate stops and multiple transfers of goods that were new or different each time—kept getting bigger and requiring more capital. Business on the basis of advance payments and credits had already become the rule in Venice as early as the twelfth century, in part on the basis of very high interest rates (20 to 40 percent in the middle of the twelfth century, in some cases). The need for minimizing risk was immense. Several merchants and
the aforementioned business with money, bills, and checks, but they also used their capital, money in accounts deposited with them, and their earnings to acquire shares in and advance credits to trading and commercial enterprises. They also conducted such enterprises on their own. In addition, they issued bonds to city governments, landed and manorial estates, and eventually also to the highest-ranking spiritual and worldly rulers, who were in constant need of money owing to the lack of routine
frequently took place in commercially developed areas during the fourteenth century (even if these disturbances also had other causes), for example the tumulto dei ciompi in Florence in 1378, which was settled by force of arms and suppressed with the aid of city authorities. Not always did the rudiments of cottage industry—which could also be found in other lines of business, as in the Nuremberg metal trade, the linen industry in Constance, and in southern Italian ship construction—lead to open
the eighteenth century, games of chance and sports were commercial operations, and a passion for betting was paired with an inclination to calculating probabilities coolly. There were many different occasions for such gambling: at horse races, cricket matches, cockfights, or at lotteries and on the stock exchange. The culture and entertainment industries experienced an upswing. It is noteworthy how positive was the language of major Enlightenment figures when they discussed games, speculation,
and answering for the consequences of decisions, on the other. As a result, exorbitant profits for money managers are facilitated by public budgets that take on gigantic losses (“too big to fail”). The contemporary critique of growing inequality as a consequence of capitalism is, moreover, becoming ever more urgent. Here, public discussion has focused on the kind of income and wealth inequality that since the 1970s has become much more severe inside most individual countries; there has been less