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Title page for ETD etd-08052014-154553

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Jóhannesson, Sveinn Máni
URN etd-08052014-154553
Title Corporate Sovereigns, Middle Class Managers, and In/Visible Hands: The Subjective Figures of American Capitalism, 1900-2014
Degree Master of Arts
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Gary Gerstle Committee Chair
  • Robber Barons
  • Subjective Figures
  • American Capitalism
  • The Middle Class
  • Financiers
Date of Defense 2014-06-01
Availability unrestricted
This essay examines, in the history of American capitalism, the changing relationship between social types, groups and classes to the questions of economic change and the origins of modern America. Historical schools have considered different subjective figures – such as capitalists and entrepreneurs, managers and clerks, the working class – as key objects of historical analysis as well as constitutive of economic change and American capitalism. The essay argues that a distinguishing characteristic of the booming field of the “new” history of American capitalism has been the concentration of analytic efforts on a novel breed of historical actors: bosses, bankers, brokers and other economic elites. But while the burgeoning subfield has demonstrated that much is to be gained analytically by treating businesspeople as meaningful historical actors, it is not the first to take businesspeople seriously. In fact, the history of capitalism has always debated which object should be central to historical analysis and American capitalism. This essay explores the changing objects and categories of historical analysis, and how they relate to the questions of economic change and the origins of the modern United States, in six historiographical traditions: the Progressive school, business history revisionism associated with Allan Nevins, Chandler school of business history and the organizational synthesis, labor history, and the “new” history of American capitalism.
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