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Old South, New South: Revolutions in the Southern Economy since the Civil War

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ISBN-13: 978-0807120989
ISBN-10: 0807120987
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Wright's earlier work established him as the most literate and thoughtful of the "new economic historians"; this new book can only enhance his reputation. In it he argues that Southern poverty after the Civil War is best understood as a function of a separate, low-wage labor market. The advantage of lower labor costs did not bring prosperity but instead kept the South impoverished. Wright argues that market forces alone could not transform the South onto a level comparable to the North. Rather, the market economy perversely keep the South racist and poor. Only the undermining of the Southern plantation economy by federal New Deal policies changed the South in the post-war decades into part of the "Sun Belt." Wright's book will interest scholars, but it is also accessible to laypersons. Strongly recommended for academic and larger public libraries. James W. Oberly, History Dept., Univ. of WisconsinEau Claire
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Gavin Wright, professor of economics at Stanford University, is the author of The Political Economy of the Cotton South.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: LSU Press (January 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807120987
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807120989
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #654,675 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Gavin Wright in Old South, New South, applies an economic interpretation to the southern condition. Wright's analysis is an economic history of the American South since the Civil War. The South, he argues, was an economy within a larger economy. The basic theme of his study is how the South related to national and international economies in different times. Wright argues that the South was a "colonial economy"(vii) whose most important feature was a "separate regional labor market, outside the scope of national and international labor markets that were active and effective during the same era."(7) The agricultural low-wage basis of the labor market Wright hypothesizes, is the key to understanding the Old South. But in the New South, wages are on a par with the rest of the nation. Old South, New South is an economist's explanation of this transition. Because he relies strictly on economic theory, much of Gavin Wright's interpretation contradicts traditional historiography.

Slavery was the root cause of how the north and south developed economically different. "The incentives of slave property tended to disperse population across the land, reduce investments in transportation and in cities, and limit exploration of southern natural resources."(11) Because slave labor was so mobile, Wright argues that before the Civil War, there was little incentive for local investment. Two other economists support this contention. Bateman and Weiss (1981) argue that an unrealized potential for industrialization existed in the south, but that the attitude and behavior of the planter class inhibited its development. (20) This "deplorable scarcity" of manufacturing capacity contributed to a common theme of industrial backwardness among writers of southern history.
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