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The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism
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The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  179 ratings  ·  28 reviews
With its deep roots and global scope, the capitalist system seems universal and timeless. The framework for our lives, it is a source of constant change, sometimes measured and predictable, sometimes drastic, out of control. Yet what is now ubiquitous was not always so. Capitalism was an unlikely development when it emerged from isolated changes in farming, trade, and manu ...more
ebook, 494 pages
Published March 7th 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published December 22nd 2009)
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Tom Mackay
Relentless suffices as a general introduction to the topic and makes some important points - primarily that capitalism rests upon cultural factors rather than natural or material laws. It also tries to take a balanced approach, noting the myriad problems associated with 'the market', in addition to detailing what Appleby believes to be its benefits. Appleby does advocate restraint through regulation, and, by arguing that capitalism is fluid and malleable, seeks to highlight that it can be shaped ...more
Adam
This is an ambitious undertaking that charts the development and growth of capitalism around the world. The book begins by outlining three schools of thought on capitalism that are separately influenced by the writings of Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and Max Weber. Appleby states that while most economists adhere to the philosophy of Adam Smith, she finds Weber to be the most compelling. Examining the interplay between culture and economics, she counters Smith’s argument that people are hard-wired for ...more
Erin
Not being an economist I knew this book would be a challenge for me but I felt compelled to read it because on one level I wanted to know how Americans, specifically, have come to culturally accept capitalism as the best option. On a more personal level I wanted to find a way to reconcile my opinion that smoking in bars should be legal with supporting social services with taxes. Libertarian Socialist?
But more importantly, I wanted to understand how we determine what services or needs are best me
...more
Converse
Appleby argues that capitalism is not the same as a society with some market-based production and distribution. Capitalism in her view is more than an economic system, and requires legal and ideological support for a system of privatized, non-centralized investment in production and distribution. Because traditional societies placed a strong emphasis on stability, markets had been tightly regulated prior to 17th century Britain. The English civil war distrupted this system of control, allowing f ...more
John Moyle
Taken for what it is, this is a book worth reading. What it is is a survey of the rise of capitalism from its beginnings in the 17th century to its current position as the dominant economic system in the global economy of the 21st century. This book is intended for the general reader. It is not a rigorous historical analysis, nor is it an economics text. For someone interested in getting a better understanding of what capitalism is, how it developed over the past 300 years or so, and why it has ...more
Caffection Mariah  Byron
Appleby has written a compelling, thoroughly engaging explication of capitalism in America, why it was not an inevitability, what factors converged to bring it to the fore, and those dynamic and often ruthless individuals who drove it forward. With a few typos and factual errors here and there (there were no B-29s in the European theatre), but overall wholly readable and succinct, Appleby's book presents a strong case, and a generally optimistic view of where American capitalism is headed.
Andy Marton
This was the textbook for a history class I took at UMass Amherst. Joyce Appleby studies a broad history in a relatively short work, which robs her of the chance to go into great depth. However, she is well-sourced and makes a compelling argument that capitalism is not natural or accidental. Every era that she studies in the world comes back to this point. This is not a bad thing; a history book that tries to be objective manages to say very little in a lot of space.

The issue I take with the boo
...more
Corey
While several insightful observations were made especially early, I was largely disappointed with Appleby's work. She takes on too large of a task for a 400 page book: the history of capatalism from 15th century to present times. But then to make matters worse, she often strays into unrelated digressions. On several issues of key import she skims the surface in a largely superficial analysis. For example, she digresses into the causes of World War I, making no attempt to relate it to capitalism. ...more
Dylan Horrocks
Torn between 2 stars and 3. I was pretty disappointed by this book in the end. It promises far more than it delivers. The initial chapters push the argument that capitalism is a cultural phenomenon rather than a monolithic system governed by natural laws. There are some intriguing (albeit brief) discussions of the emergence of the modern idea of progress, and of ways in which notions of human nature changed during the early development of capitalism. All of this was fascinating and suggested the ...more
Tania
I had quibbles with parts of this book & certainly some parts could have gone into greater depth while other's could have been more concise. However a an introduction to the development of capitalism which I think of of utmost importance to have awareness of if you want to critique the system it's great. In fact it's the only book on the subject that I've read and thought that I'd recommend to non-economist friends of mine who in interested in the matter.
Appleby handles the earlier parts of
...more
Jonathan
I have never read a history book with so many exclamation points. Even if the content were accurate, the explosive punctuation makes me uneasy with the professionalism of the author.


Otherwise it was highly informative.
Crabby McGrouchpants
Joyce Appleby brings a truly-dispassionate, scholarly tone to that most contentious of edifices: Capitalism itself. With steely-eyed patience, no small of amount of dry humor, and neither a blind eye to the innovations Capitalism drove/made possible or the almost-inconceivable cruelties its advent made conceivable, this essential mini-tome will "reset" whatever you think, Right or Left, about how we got ourselves, Western Civ. in particular, where we are today.

A grounds-leveler, to be sure! Shou
...more
Gabriel
This book started out fantastic, and finished strong, but the bulk in the middle was a real struggle to get through. Appleby begins with a clever, and for me at least, fresh take on the origins of capitalism. She argues that the industrial revolution flowed naturally from the beginnings of capitalism, inverting a relationship that many thinks works the other way. Furthermore, she very clearly proves that when people argue about "capitalism" as some abstract system existing separate from politica ...more
David
No cares to read long-winded reviews which twist symphonically through a text. Therefore, I intend to keep this short and sweet.

This is a competent narrative history of Capitalism. The author is, mostly, well read in the topic but does drop the ball a few times (in this reviewers opinion).

Here are some of the areas I would disagree with (there are others)
The location of the Industrial Revolution does not belong, really, in the 18th century but in the Renaissance (where the intellectual tools w
...more
Shea Mastison
Calling this book ambitious is like calling an encyclopedia informative--it's just something that's obvious in the scope of the subject material. Joyce Appleby, by her own admission, is a left-leaning historian; in this books she begins with the 17th Century and works her way to the present, and a little beyond explaining the origins and developments of capitalism as she understands it.

There's nothing particularly challenging about this book. It's history as you've heard it a thousand times bef
...more
Dnicebear
Gordon-Reed is both a law and history professor, and it shows in the way she can enlarge what seem like small details into a believable picture of Thomas Jefferson's family, about whom some details were suppressed, hushed or distorted. Who was Sally's mother? Why did Sally and James Hemings choose to return to the slavery of Virginia instead of choosing freedom in Paris? How did Jefferson become enamored of Sally? What was the process James and Robert went through to become free? Why did Patsy ( ...more
Malcolmaffleck
A good book in many ways, but as many have mentioned, the scope of it causes problems. At times it feels more like 'A History of notable things that happened in capitalist countries' rather than a history of how capitalism altered and affected the world, particularly when you get to the more modern periods of history. Perhaps this was Appleby's point - that capitalism is actually just a series of interesting things underneath the umbrella of capitalism, but I felt the book needed a bit of a clea ...more
Tom
Adequate as a general summary of capitalism, but covers so much in so little time that not many details can stick.
Kevin
Amazing book on the history of capitalism. Focusing on capitalism's emergence in the 15th and 16th century, and how it was able to elicit social change throughout Europe and the New World, looking at it as social system not just an economic system. Certainly doesn't paint the rosiest picture of capitalism, but author was very objective and very clear to point out the bad actions of the actors as opposed to blaming capitalism it's self as the root of all evil. The writing was very clear and well ...more
S.
fun read. Appleby at one point says, "silicon wafers, which are known as 'chips'" O.o funny still, cleanly written story, perhaps not as nail-bitingly fascinating as some other works, but pretty good all in all
Leo CLC
This is a really interesting look at what things were like in the past and how capitalism developed from the past market societies. From looking at how capitalism developed it then looks at how the global capitalist superpowers came to be and how they developed past the other societies. I thought it was really interesting though a lot of people probably will not. My only criticism is that it really is a lot to take in at times.
Adam Altman
great history through the lens of capitalism--how it came about, how it has shaped our society, why people in different places reacted the way they have to it, and just how strange a system it is from the perspective of all evolution. actually has me rethinking the whole premiss of the vocations we chase (we = me and all my friends).

Neil Novesky
Much easier to follow than some of the other works on the subject, particularly by the likes of the outstanding works by Niall Ferguson. Presentation is more essay form, as though in an informal graduate school seminar setting. Makes for fairly pleasant read
Margaret Sankey
Idiosyncratic history of capitalism from the 16th century to the present, with vivid anecdotes, but extremely Eurocentric (centered on the Dutch, not the English) and a little old fashioned (can anyone actually believe I said that?)
Sara
Beginning of book very interesting as she describes how society had to change to accommodate rise of market practices. Material on more recent times much more shallow and familiar.
Tom
Very in broad in its analysis. Read it for a class but didn't really take much away from the mostly generalized presentation. Gives a more cultural reason for capitalism's rise.
Marc
While this book was a tremendous undertaking, the numerous errors and subjective interpretations offered by the author ruined any value it had as a history.
Nate
Dec 31, 2010 Nate is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Reading, reading, reading...
Nupur
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