SOCIAL SCIENCES

Ages of American Capitalism: A History of the United States

Random. Apr. 2021. 928p. ISBN 9780812995015. $40. BUS
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The history of the United States is the history of capitalism. The colonies began when property and trade were still new concepts in Europe and the country relied on the exploitation of human labor—first of Indigenous and enslaved peoples, and then of all workers—to grow the economy. Each era of exploitation was met with a violent response, until the political infrastructure turned to the divide-and-conquer plan that defines our modern era. Levy (history, Univ. of Chicago; Freaks of Fortune) has given us a textbook on America that successfully explains history through an economic perspective. The book breaks down centuries of history into four eras: the ages of commerce, capital, control, and chaos. Through these ages, we move from the foundation of the colonies and a new nation, to the current age, which Levy defines as one of investment and liquidity. This massive tome provides a clear narrative of how economic power in America has always resided with those rich enough to invest. An understanding of economic principles is helpful but not essential to following Levy’s analysis.
VERDICT Levy makes a cohesive argument that provides a new perspective on the trajectory of the U.S. but will still feel familiar to any student of history.
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