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The Pristine Culture of Capitalism: A Historical Essay on Old Regimes and Modern States

In this lively and wide-ranging book, Ellen Meiksins Wood argues that what is supposed to have epitomized bourgeois modernity, especially the emergence of a “modern” state and political culture in Continental Europe, signaled the persistence of pre-capitalist social property relations. Conversely, the absence of a “modern” state and political discourse in England testified to the presence of a well-developed capitalism. The fundamental flaws in the British economy are not just the symptoms of arrested development but the contradictions of the capitalist system itself. Britain today, Wood maintains, is the most thoroughly capitalist culture in Europe.


  • “A breath of fresh air ... This book made me think about, and rethink, seventeenth-century English history more than any I have read in decades ... a pleasure to read.”
  • “The writing is so supple and accessible, and the argument so persuasive, it's like watching a cloudy mixture of ideas being turned into a clear solution.”
  • “A splendid book.”
  • “Meiksins Wood is a rare breed--an academic with the soul of a storyteller. Highly recommended.”
  • “Immensely impressive, bold and erudite ... This book ought to be compulsory reading for us all.”


Other books by Ellen Meiksins Wood