The rise of market society in England

Focusing on the example of England the study reconstructs the century-long process of commercialisation that gave birth to a modern market society. It shows how certain types of markets (for example real estate, work and capital, and also for example for copyrights) came into being, and how the social relations mediated by markets were formed. The book deals with the creation of institutions like the Bank of England, the stock exchange and Lloyd's insurance, and the way the English dealt with the uncertainty and risks involved in market transactions.
The study takes up a central question posed by Max Weber: "To what combination of circumstances the fact should be attributed that in Western civilization phenomena have appeared which (as we like to think) lie in a line of development having universal significance and value". That said, by contrast with Weber (and other social science classics), the study does not deal with the West as a whole but primarily with England. The aim of the author is to show that the creation of a market society and modern capitalism in England occurred under circumstances that were utterly different to those on the European continent and that an overhasty generalisation would lead to mistakes in interpretation. In addition she shows that the process of commercialisation of business, society and culture in England did not directly lead to an industrial society, as has been suggested in research to date, but to a service economy. The author emphasizes the singularity of the English case and thus challenges the idea of a Western pattern of commercialisation.
The study is presented chronologically; i.e. it starts with the mediaeval basis of market society and proceeds via the early-modern period, when the market began to set up relationships between different business areas like industry and trade, banking, the media and cultural industries, to around 1800 when commercial ideas and activities dominated contemporary mentalities. In that the author describes the intensification of market relationships in the course of history, the study itself becomes more intense as it proceeds. Whereas the early chapters apply methods of political science and sociology, the second part of the book presents economic, social and cultural history analyses. This tendency towards a more concrete analysis is partly a by-product of the fact that the nearer we come to the present day the more detailed information we possess about English market society. However the increasingly differentiated depiction also follows the process of commercialisation itself, a process which in the late 17th and 18th century already contained extraordinary subtle and differentiated techniques of self perpetuation.
The study is aimed at all those interested or involved in history, sociology or economics. Since it deliberately avoids academic jargon it is also intended to be suitable for general readers.

Principal investigators
Eisenberg-Ditt, Christiane Prof. Dr. Prof. Dr. Christiane Eisenberg (Details) (British History since the Restoration)

Duration of project
Start date: 01/2006
End date: 12/2009

Eisenberg, Christiane. 2009. Englands Weg in die Marktgesellschaft [England's Path into Market Society]. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 166 pp., EUR 32.90

Last updated on 2022-08-09 at 05:09