How America Became Capitalist

Imperial Expansion and the Conquest of the West
An epic history of the formation of American capitalism, focusing on gender, race and empire.

A presentation and discussion with author James Parisot

“Parisot’s rich and lively analysis of the domestic history of US empire helps readers understand what it was about the development of US economic, social and political institutions that made the American state so central in the making of global capitalism.”  —Leo Panitch

“The historical transformation from a society with capitalism to a capitalist society, then, meant, in the American case, the two hundred and fifty or so year process through which bits and pieces of capitalist relations slowly came to predominate and incorporate non‐capitalist forms of social life. And this history of the rise of capitalist dominance was simultaneously a history of empire building. By empire I refer to the total structure of power over space and territory that emerged from the earliest days of white‐settler colonization through the extension of continental expansion and the globalization of US power.” —James Parisot, 2017

Has America always been capitalist?Today, the US sees itself as the heartland of the international capitalist system, its society and politics intertwined deeply with its economic system. Parisot’s book looks at the history of North America from the founding of the colonies to debunk the myth that America is ‘naturally’ capitalist.

From the first white-settler colonies, capitalist economic elements were apparent, but far from dominant, and did not drive the early colonial advance into the West. Society, too, was far from homogeneous – as the role of the state fluctuated. Racial identities took time to imprint, and slavery, whilst at the heart of American imperialism, took both capitalist and less-capitalist forms. Additionally, gender categories and relations were highly complex, as standards of ‘manhood’ and ‘womanhood’ shifted over time to accommodate capitalism, and as there were always some people challenging this binary.

By looking at this fascinating and complex picture, James Parisot weaves a groundbreaking historical materialist perspective on the history of American expansion.

James Parisot received his PhD in Sociology from Binghamton University. He has published articles in a variety of scholarly journals, is co-editor of the book American Hegemony and the Rise of Emerging Powers: Cooperation or Conflict? (Routledge, 2017).

Prices are sliding scale. No one is denied admission for inability to pay.

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Contemporary Native American Fiction

Begins October 6 until December 15, no meeting November 24
10-week session

Join the Indigenous Studies Literature and History Group for a 10-week study of several award-winning contemporary Native American novelists. We will begin with Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony followed by Louise Erdrich’s Plague of Doves and Sherman Alexie’s Indian Killer.

We will give attention to uniquely Native themes, such as ceremony and ritual, land loss and relocation, rural and urban indigenous differences, tribal and gender politics, and what Alexie calls “reservation blues”— rage and survival strategies on the modern-day reservation in response to centuries of occupation, massacre, and corporate take-over. Literary criticism by Native scholars Vine Deloria, Jr. and Paula Gunn Allen will be provided for context. Participants are encouraged to share favorite Native poems to complement the primary texts.

The Indigenous Peoples’ Literature and History Group began following a stirring presentation by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz September of 2014. Her pioneering work, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, rightly condemns the history of the colonial setter state that the US was as founded and remains. The means by which capital inherently forms colonial settler states that depend upon the relentless exploitation and removal of indigenous peoples of North America and other continents of the world has formed the basis of our various thematic studies.

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