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The Relentless Revolution


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About the Author

Joyce Appleby is a professor of history emerita at UCLA and the author of The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism and coauthor of Telling the Truth about History, among many other works. A former president of the American History Association, she was awarded the 2009 Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Prize for distinguished writing in American history from the Society of American Historians. She lives in Taos, New Mexico.


Arguing that capitalism is a cultural-rather than purely economic-phenomenon, Appleby (Liberalism and Republicanism in the Historical Imagination) traces its trajectory through European, American, and Asian successes and setbacks, its unhappy experiments in colonization, the world wars, and into contemporary India and China. She narrates the rise of capitalism as a process of accretion, starting with Dutch agricultural innovations that were adopted and improved upon by the British. This set England on the path to controlling famine and, ultimately, freed capital and labor for trade. Appleby turns Marxism on its head as she proposes that the new social relations introduced in England as a result of converting common land into freeholds were the "consequence, not the cause, of the transformation in English farming." If this sounds like breathless global time travel, it is still a laudable effort at demonstrating that there was nothing "inevitable" about the rise of capitalism. Both scholarly and accessible, this book unpacks a complex web of seemingly unrelated events; its dazzling achievements are tarnished only by multiple misnomers: there is no city called "Calico" in India (there's a Calicut) and no language called "Hindu" (it's Hindi). (Jan.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

"Stimulating history." -- The New Yorker
"Fascinating and persuasive." -- Seattle Times
"Excellent...a highly accessible, broad examination of capitalism's history." -- Choice
"Extraordinarily insightful and well written." -- Fort Worth Star-Telegram

For those of us inhabiting the globe today, it may be difficult to imagine a world without capitalism. In a profound and insightful analysis of the economic system, esteemed historian Appleby (emerita, Univ. of California, Los Angeles; Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans) traces the genesis of the "puzzle of capitalism" back to 16th-century England in an effort to explain the development of capitalism and remove the fallacy that its triumph was inevitable. Favoring the cultural model of capitalism set forth by Max Weber over those of Karl Marx and Adam Smith, Appleby argues that by combining Dutch innovations such as banks and joint stock companies, new areas of trade, and a revolution in agriculture, the English broke through cultural barriers, transcended a world of scarcity, and introduced a new cultural system that has since revolutionized society. VERDICT Appleby's engaging narrative spans from capitalism's humble origins through industrialization, world war, depression, and into the present era of global recession, government bailouts, and the world markets. More comprehensive than Niall Ferguson's The Ascent of Money, this sound, timely study will surely find a receptive audience with both academics and those concerned with the state of the modern financial world.-Brian Odom, Pelham P.L., AL Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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