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A Notable Administration: English State Formation and the Rise of Capitalism

Derek Sayer
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 97, No. 5 (Mar., 1992), pp. 1382-1415
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2781419
Page Count: 34
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A Notable Administration: English State Formation and the Rise of Capitalism
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Abstract

England is, according to both Marx and Weber, the classic ground of modern rational capitalism. Yet England's political history and institutions strikingly deviate from what Weberian or Marxist ideal-types of capitalist development might lead us to expect. This article argues that these deviations are important in explaining why England became the home of capitalism in the first place. Particular stress is put upon the earliness of England's formation as a national state, or the continuites of its major legal and political institutions, and what are often seen as their amateurish "irrationalities" in molding, over the very longue durée, a civil society in which capitalist economy was possible. If so, the pertinence of Marxist and Weberian ideal-types to a historical sociology of capitalism, whether in England or elsewhere, needs very seriously to be reconsidered.

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