THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MARKET ECONOMY IN COLONIAL MASSACHUSETTS
The rise of the market economy in colonial Massachusetts has always been of concern to economic historians. The ascendance of modern day American capitalism owes much to this latter day transition. Many economic historians attribute the growth of the market and the rise of capitalism in Massachusetts to the intrusion of external forces and/or to certain unchangeable human tendencies to "truck, barter and seek profits." But these prevailing explanations are riddled with ironies and unanswered questions.
For example, the Puritan ideology, which dominated religious and secular life in Massachusetts (1650-1750) included a strong anti-market, anti-profit component. How was it possible for "external" forces to overcome this all pervasive ideology? Indeed, why did capitalist relations develop first in that region of North America that was philosophically most opposed to its growth? Secondly, the rise of the market system and of capitalism was a process which took place overtime. Therefore, how can we theoretically characterize the pre-capitalist economy in colonial Massachusetts, given the widely held consensus that feudalism did not exist in the North American colonies or at least in Massachusetts?
This dissertation employes a theoretically rigorous class analysis to address these and other related questions in an overall attempt to explain the basis for the origins of capitalism in Massachusetts by 1800. The study covers the period 1620-1800, a span of time which encompasses the early settlements by 'Pilgrims' and 'Puritans' through the birth of the North American nation.
The first chapter defines and explains the key concepts and methodological approach of the dissertation. The second chapter, perhaps the key theoretical chapter, defines the variety of non-capitalist class relations present in early 17th Century Massachusetts. These included ancient relations, feudal relations, slavery, as well as their subsumed classes--merchants, clergy, government officials, etc.
The third and fourth chapters deal with the interactions between these classes 1640-1800. Specifically, we examine how each class in society struggled to maintain the economic, political and cultural conditions necessary to insure its own existence. In the very process of this endeavor, however, the structure of classes and the economy itself changed, as conflicts and contradictions were intensified and resolved. Thus, the development of new classes, new economic structures can be seen as a complex process of structural growth and change rather than a series of external intrusions or the blossoming of inherent human propensities.