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The Invention of Capitalism: Classical Political Economy and the Secret History of Primitive Accumulation
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The Invention of Capitalism: Classical Political Economy and the Secret History of Primitive Accumulation

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  101 ratings  ·  9 reviews
The originators of classical political economy—Adam Smith, David Ricardo, James Steuart, and others—created a discourse that explained the logic, the origin, and, in many respects, the essential rightness of capitalism. But, in the great texts of that discourse, these writers downplayed a crucial requirement for capitalism’s creation: For it to succeed, peasants would have ...more
Paperback, 424 pages
Published May 3rd 2000 by Duke University Press Books (first published January 1st 2000)
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Adam Kiehl
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The birth of capitalism (defined here as one in which a small group of people are capital owners and most of the population has to rent themselves to capital owners to survive) is one of the most horrific events in human history. The European world would go from a frequently brutal feudal society in which the peasantry had nevertheless managed to build spaces of collective communal village life with social support and a remarkable degree of democratic control over their lives to one of disenfran ...more
tom bomp
Good, entertaining book covering both a basic history of primitive accumulation and a basic history of classical political economy, focusing on the links between the two and the ways in which political economy support primitive accumulation, often while hiding it. It feels a lot like a much extended version of Marx's footnotes against economists in the primitive accumulation section of Capital Vol 1. Lots of quotes and citations that build up a clear and fascinating picture.

It has some problems
Oct 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing

primitive accumulation & the division of labor are two sides of the same coin. while there is an original (primitive) separation of people from land and tools, maintaining this separation is an ongoing process under capitalism, and is one of the chief functions of the state. if studied, the capitalist division of labor will show that one of the chief ends of work under capitalism, when taken as a social whole, is to maintain the need to keep on working. radical politics should be all about the r
Jul 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
An analysis of the history of specific proponents of our economic system & how they contrast with Adam Smith, specifically the work for which he is most famous, “The Wealth of Nations” & the importance of primitive accumulation as factor in the development of that system.

Perelman shows how Adam Smith was not particularly special amongst his contemporaries. He shows his book for what it is, more propaganda than thorough analysis. He shows how some of his contemporaries are a bit more honest about
James Steele
May 04, 2020 rated it liked it
A very academic book. Not easy to digest, using a lot of economist’s terms to define other economist’s terms. Still, if you can let that sink into the background and peel back the layers to see what this book is about, this is scary.

Proponents of capitalism maintain that market forces create and maintain themselves, and the system was an inevitable progression of society from an inefficient system of feudalism and households producing goods to the highly efficient system of factory economy.

But t
Dec 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book illuminated an embarrassingly obvious fact for me, which is that studying the history of ideas and their contexts of origin helps you better understand those ideas' present-day forms. This careful reading of texts and historical analysis seems especially important for ideas that everyone assumes they understand, ideas that became foundational to many proceeding systems and philosophies. It can be a bit dreary at times to be so thorough (looking at you, chapter on how or how not Benjami ...more
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Primitive accumulation is removing leisure time as an option and minimizing it socially for the working class. Early chapters cover the history of game laws, social division of labour, and such... it gets more into the economists themselves later with a good exposition of Adam Smith's contradictory conjectural explanation for the emergence of employment vs. James Steuart's account. Gives an overview of some lesser known classical economists like Robert Torrens, Edward Gibbon Wakefield and John R ...more
Laissez-faire for you, State Intervention for us!

This is a very good book. It is the revised edition of a book I saw sometime in the (?) eighties. This book decisively shows how the birth of capitalism required the dispossession of both small-holders and landless peasants by closing off the commons and forest areas (through Enclosures and various Game Laws, for instance) and thus removing their supply of food (from hunting and gathering) and fuel (such as wood).
This expropriation forced them in
David Steele
Sep 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
World-view changing. Easy to read. Recommended.
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Michael Perelman (born October 1, 1939) is an American economist and economic historian, currently professor of economics at California State University, Chico. Perelman has written 19 books, including Railroading Economics, Manufacturing Discontent, The Perverse Economy, and The Invention of Capitalism. A student of economics at the University of Michigan and San Francisco State College, Perelman ...more

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Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” So, this January, as we celebrate Martin Luther King...
25 likes · 10 comments
“In the wake of primitive accumulation, the wage relationship became a seemingly voluntary affair. Workers needed employment and employers wanted workers. In reality, of course, the underlying process was far from voluntary.” 0 likes
“Indeed, the history of the recruitment of labor is an uninterrupted story of coercion either through the brute force of poverty or more direct regulation, which made a continuation of the old ways impossible” 0 likes
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