The Origin of Capitalism

The Origin of Capitalism:A Longer View

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How did the dynamic economic system we know as capitalism develop among the peasants and lords of feudal Europe?

In The Origin of Capitalism, a now-classic work of history, Ellen Meiksins Wood offers readers a clear and accessible introduction to the theories and debates concerning the birth of capitalism, imperialism, and the modern nation state. Capitalism is not a natural and inevitable consequence of human nature, nor simply an extension of age-old practices of trade and commerce. Rather, it is a late and localized product of very specific historical conditions, which required great transformations in social relations and in the relationship between humans and nature.

Reviews

  • The Origin of Capitalism was one of those ‘Aha!’ moments. Wood was an extraordinarily rigorous and imaginative thinker, someone who breathed life into Marxist political theory and made it speak—not to just to me but to many others—at multiple levels: historical, theoretical, political.

    Corey RobinJacobin
  • 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.

    Adrienne Rich
  • This extremely valuable book offers an insightful tour of the historical debates surrounding the transition from feudalism to capitalism … a must-read for anyone with even the remotest interest in the origins of capitalism, or economic thought in general, from undergraduates through professionals.

    Choice