The American Road to Capitalism

Studies in Class-Structure, Economic Development and Political Conflict, 1620—1877

Winner of the 2013 Paul M. Sweezy Marxist Sociology Book Award
Short Listed for the 2011 Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Memorial Prize

Unable to analyze the dynamics of specific forms of social labour in the antebellum U.S., most historians of the US Civil War have ignored its deep social roots. To search out these roots, Post applies the theoretical insights from the transition debates to the historical literature on the U.S. to produce a new analysis of the origins of American capitalism.

Part of the Historical Materialism Book Series.

Click to Listen to Charlie Post Speak on the Book

About the author

Charles Post Ph. D. (1983) in Sociology, SUNY-Binghamton, is Professor of Sociology at Borough of Manhattan Community College-CUNY. He has published in New Left Review, Journal of Peasant Studies, Journal of Agrarian Change, Against the Current and Historical Materialism.

Reviews

"Charles Post's new book, The American Road to Capitalism,is sure to become a reference point for debates among historians and Marxists about the transformation of the English colonies into the fully developed capitalist United States. [...] it should be widely read, appreciated for its insights and rigor, and also debated."
—Ashley Smith, International Socialist Review

"This is a thoughtful, learned, stimulating, challenging and altogether valuable volume. It reprints a series of reflections by the Marxist sociologist Charles Post on various aspects of the rise and evolution of capitalism in North America between the colonial era and the late 19th century. The book is anchored in a wide-ranging study of (and it duly credits) the work of generations of historians."
—Bruce Levine, author of Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves during the Civil War, in Against the Current

"Explaining the origin and early development of American capitalism is a particularly challenging task. It is in some ways even more difficult than in other cases to strike the right historical balance, capturing the systemic imperatives of capitalism, and explaining how they emerged, while doing justice to historical particularities… To confront these historical complexities requires both a command of historical detail and a clear theoretical grasp of capitalism’s systemic imperatives, a combination that is all too rare. Charles Post succeeds in striking that difficult balance, which makes his book a major contribution to truly historical scholarship."
—Ellen Meiksins-Wood, York University, author of The Origins of Capitalism: A Long View.

"In The American Road to Capitalism, Charles Post offers a brilliant reinterpretation of the origins and diverging paths of economic evolution in the American north and south. The first systematic historical materialist account of US development from the colonial period through the civil war in a very long time, it is sure to be received as a landmark contribution."
—Robert P. Brenner, University of California-Los Angeles, author of Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Early Modern Europe and Merchants and Revolution: Commercial Change, Political Conflict, and London's Overseas Traders, 1550-1653.

"Charles Post has written an excellent book on the origins of American capitalism in the antebellum North, on plantation slavery in the Old South and on the cataclysmic conflict between them. His interpretation is bold and controversial; it will have to be considered by all scholars in the field."
—John Ashworth, University of Nottingham, author of Slavery, Capitalism and the Antebellum Republic.

"This is the most original and provocative materialist interpretation of the origins and dynamics of US capitalism for a long time. Post combines impressive command of the historical sources with a sharp analytical understanding, not least of the centrality of agrarian questions to the development of capitalism."
—Henry Bernstein, University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies and China Agricultural University, Beijing, emeritus editor Journal of Agrarian Change.

"Over the past three decades, Charles Post has been developing an original and powerful interpretation of the American road to capitalism. This volume brings together his most important essays in what is sure to be a landmark volume. Post brilliantly analyzes the structural basis of economic development in both the North and the South, culminating in a powerful interpretation of the social basis of the Civil War. The book is one of the best examples of historical sociology that I have seen in recent years, effortlessly melding theory and historical research. This is engaged scholarship of the highest order."
—Vivek Chibber, New York University, author of Locked In Place: State Building and Late Industrialization in India

"“Charlie Post's The American Road to Capitalism is a magisterial text that deserves a close reading, in particular by scholars attempting to make sense of 20th century capitalism in the United States."
—Jordy Cummings, The Journal of Socialist Studies