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The Political Economy of Slavery: Studies in the Economy and Society of the Slave South (Wesleyan Paperback) Paperback – December 15, 1988

3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0819562081 ISBN-10: 0819562084 Edition: 2nd

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The Political Economy of Slavery: Studies in the Economy and Society of the Slave South (Wesleyan Paperback) + Shays' Rebellion: The Making of an Agrarian Insurrection + Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“What is original in Mr. Genovese’s highly stimulating volume is the analysis of the ante bellum political, economic, and social structure as a closed system with a built-in (and most un-American) resistance to change… [It] will move the discussion of the ante bellum South to a new level of sophistication.” ―Anne Firor Scott, The South Atlantic Quarterly

“The work is original and quite persuasive.”―The New Yorker

“Genovese has combined elegance of expression and originality of analysis in a remarkable book.” ―Leonard Bloom, Journal of Modern African Studies

“He has given new life to the study of Southern history.”―William N. Parker, Economic History Review

From the Publisher

5 1/2 x 8 trim. Table. Graph. LC 89-5607
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Product Details

  • Series: Wesleyan Paperback
  • Paperback: 335 pages
  • Publisher: Wesleyan; 2nd edition (December 15, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0819562084
  • ISBN-13: 978-0819562081
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #788,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Harry Eagar VINE VOICE on July 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
When Eugene Genovese, now a senior figure in slavery studies, was a young scholar, the question of whether slavery was "profitable" or "as profitable as free labor" was a vexed one in the academy. These early essays consider the question and the answer he gives is no.

This is undoubtedly correct, but the mystery to me has always been why anybody thought there was a controversy. A drive through the South around 1960 with its tarpaper shacks, coupled with a drive through the Midwest with its comfortable clapboard houses should have given a hint. Even if the difference had been slight or nil, there is a social factor: If the southern agricultural system had been highly profitable, then necessarily all the profits would have been concentrated in a few hands, in contrast with the North and West.

It might not have been obvious at the time, but the example of England, then developing a similar split without slavery, would have hinted at coming problems. The South needed land reform as much as it needed emancipation.

Genovese is concerned, though, with the more immediate prospects of reform (taking the word in its most expansive meaning, to include those who thought that reform meant making slavery bigger and better). According to Genovese, the form that slavery had taken by the 19th century, coupled with the world market for a single staple crop and the marked difference in farming opportunities between the Upper and the Lower South meant that all parties were on a snubbing chain.

The moderate reformers who wished to make slave labor more efficient were stymied by lack of capital and other forces, and the more ambitious reformers who hoped to see American slavery evolve to a form of modified, more or less free labor were even less able to move.
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All reviews are, however much you wish to make a scientific exercise of them, colored by your personal bias and experience. Political economical interpretations bring to mind right away a 'Marxist' interpretation, and that is the bias that I started the book with. The author, however, presents a descriptive study of the economy present in the South in the nineteenth century, based as it was, on the unpaid labor of slaves. The final judgement on the pros an cons is based on the economic terms of the system and not on its morality as some enemies of slavery frequently fall back on, although justifiedly. The slave economy seems to have been a profitable system or it would not have subsisted as long as it did.
The slave economy was profitable enough to encourage slaveholders to invest their profits in land and more slaves, rather than in manufacture, as the North was doing, for fear of a free white laborer class that might rival their social level, but unwilling yo permit the slaves to reach this same level, for the same reasons. In the meantime, the North with a pool of free paid labor with an incentive to join the propertied class and growing as more and more white immigrants came, left the South behind, in a condition comparable to what in the twentieth century the United States would be to the third world countries, providers of staples as the South did to the North, the West Indies and Europe, and customer of their manufactures and e'n depending of the North for a good portion of their food supplies.
I had read about slavery in the abstract or in personal cases, but never considered it in its details as an economic system, and Professor Genovese has helped me understand this facet of the system which underlies so many of the problems that the United States still faces today.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R. Cudny on November 3, 2014
Format: Paperback
5*.
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