- Hardcover: 466 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press (January 25, 1991)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521391369
- ISBN-13: 978-0521391368
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,668,681 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Yankee Leviathan: The Origins of Central State Authority in America, 1859-1877
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"Bensel's work is impressive because he keeps his eye on the interrelationship of two broad issues: state formation and political economy. These issues are now at the forefront of the best new writing on the history of American politics, and Bensel's manuscript definitely marks a step forward for a discussion now associated with the writings of Skocpol, Skowronek and others...The reader comes away from the book with a deepened understanding of how political structures evolved during the Civil War era, and how this evolution was related both to class relations and broad issues of political economy." Eric Foner, Columbia University
"Bensel's perspective on the political economy of sectionalism seems inexhaustible as a source of fresh insight into the struggles of the Civil War era. In Yankee Leviathan, the irresistable conflict of the 1850s is not simply resolved in the North's favor, it is transposed into the structure and operations of new state formation." Stephen Skowronek, Yale University
Contending that intense competition for national political economy control produced secession, this study describes the impact of the American Civil War upon the late nineteenth century development of central state authority.
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Richard Bensel uses a systematic methodology first to define state strengthening (i.e. how the state in a nation acquires relative freedom from the society in which it dwells), and then to characterize how it was built in the Civil War years. His main source of information is votes in the US and Confederate congresses, which he analyzes with a gimlet eye to sectional stresses and political economy. This is one case where quantitative methodology helps to make a clear, convincing and powerful argument.
It should also be noted that (contrary to the impression that the other review gives) this book is no shill for the Confederate cause either. As a political scientist with a focus on finance capital, Bensel does not view the Civil War through the lens of a noble crusade to abolish slavery. At the same time, however, he uses the same lens of political economy to look at the southern state-building as well. Ironically, the "Dixie Leviathan" was even more powerful and autonomous than the Yankee one. The small size of the southern economy and the broad popularity of the war gave the Confederate government both the need and the ability to confiscate property and trample states rights far more effectively than the Republicans did in the Union. The old slogans of Jeffersonian small government disappeared and big-government national mobilization became Dixie's order of the day.
As Bensel makes clear, the constitutional order broke down in 1860 because it could not peacefully regulate conflicts in the US political economy. The Jeffersonian republic died, and the issue in the Civil War was never Leviathan vs. limited government, but one leviathan or two. The ultimate irony is that Yankee Leviathan's swallowing up of Dixie Leviathan ended up recreating the conditions of sectional stalemate that still serve to limit the further growth in power of the American state.
Any one interested in American government or the strong modern state as an historical phenomenon, must read and digest this book.
With the Southern Democrats crushed in the Civil War and their opposition to Northern industrial development silenced, the Republicans are able to push forward their agenda of rapid national expansion and heavy governmental subsidies for Northern business interests. Little to nothing is spent on rebuilding the Southern infrastructure or on ensuring equality of opportunity for the freed slaves. Why wouldn't the Republicans live up to their wartime promises of providing land or other economic opportunities to African-Americans? Because if they did, then Northern factory workers would take notice and demand their fair share of Northern industry. This was intolerable to Northern business intersts. Thus, the South becomes an economic colony of the North, while the Republican Party's pro-business attitude helps turn Northern workers into virtual wage-slaves. Bensel's book is dense and difficult to read. Nevertheless, it's mind-opening rewards are worth the effort.