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City of Capital: Politics and Markets in the English Financial Revolution Paperback – November 29, 1999

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Editorial Reviews


"City of Capital is the new economic sociology at its best--theoretically sophisticated, empirically rich, and lucidly written."--William G. Roy, American Journal of Sociology

"A fabulous book. The arguments about its broad themes are compelling, the attention to detail is overwhelming but absolutely necessary and the lessons drawn are important."--Ruben Lee, Financial News

"By demonstrating that in this crucial period, in this crucial market, politics affected 'economic' behavior, Carruthers poses important questions for sociologists and economists. There is plenty here for historians, too. His reflections on the social meaning of debt relations and of economic exchange, for example, have wider implications for our understanding of the early modern economy."--Michael Braddick, American Historical Review

From the Publisher

While many have examined how economic interests motivate political action, Bruce Carruthers explores the reverse relationship by focusing on how political interests shape a market. He sets his inquiry within the context of late Stuart England, when an active stock market emerged and when Whig and Tory parties vied for control of a newly empowered Parliament. Carruthers examines the institutional linkage between politics and the market that consisted of three jointstock companiesthe Bank of England, the East India Company, and the South Sea Companywhich all loaned large sums to the government and whose shares dominated trading on the stock market. Through innovative research that connects the voting behavior of individuals in parliamentary elections with their economic behavior in the stock market, Carruthers demonstrates that party conflict figured prominently during the company foundings as Whigs and Tories tried to dominate company directorships. For them, the national debt was as much a political as a fiscal instrument.

In 1712, the Bank was largely controlled by the Whigs, and the South Sea Company by the Tories. The two parties competed, however, for control of the East India Company, and so Whigs tended to trade shares only with Whigs, and Tories with Tories. Probing such connections between politics and markets at both institutional and individual levels, Carruthers ultimately argues that competitive markets are not inherently apolitical spheres guided by economic interest but rather ongoing creations of social actors pursuing multiple goals. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (November 29, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691049602
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691049601
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,565,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Bruce Carruthers' "City of Capital," presented as a dissertation in sociology at the University of Chicago, nails down some home truths that academic economists and Wall Street financiers have often derided, to our cost, in recent times.

Carruthers' research object was to determine whether in the time of Queen Anne, trading in London financial instruments was affected by non-economic factors and specifically party maneuvering.

The short answer is, yes, sometimes, despite the economist Stanley Jevons's Law of Indifference which says that traders who allow anything but profits (and short-term profits at that) to affect their decisions will be squeezed out of the market. People as high up as Robert Rubin, Clinton's Treasury secretary, believed this.

Carruthers does not prove that the Law of Indifference does not work in the long run, but he does show that even in unregulated markets, real-life traders behave as if it doesn't.

A lot of scene-setting is required before getting to the rather brief research section, in which Carruthers manages to match traders in the big companies of the day (the Bank of England, the South Sea Company and the East India Company) with their party, social, religious and national associations.

He examines the financial structures and government mobilization of resources in five 17th century states: England, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden. A good deal of the book is devoted to establishing that government could co-opt (not a word he uses) rich people by borrowing money from them. This gave the creditor a stake in the continued health of the debtor.
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