Its Origins and Evolution as a System of Governance

  • Bruce R. Scott

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxxv
  2. The Theory of Capitalism

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-9
    2. Bruce R. Scott
      Pages 11-25
    3. Bruce R. Scott
      Pages 27-65
    4. Bruce R. Scott
      Pages 67-109
    5. Bruce R. Scott
      Pages 111-138
  3. The Origins and Evolution of Capitalism, 1400–1830

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 139-140
    2. Bruce R. Scott
      Pages 141-183
  4. Political Obstacles to Capitalist Development

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 277-285
    2. Bruce R. Scott
      Pages 287-307
  5. The Economic Strategies of Capitalist Systems

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 333-335
    2. Bruce R. Scott
      Pages 337-355
    3. Bruce R. Scott
      Pages 357-375
  6. The Evolution of US Capitalism and Democracy, 1830–2009

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 423-426
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 585-672

About this book


Two systems of governance, capitalism and democracy, prevail in the world today. Operating in partly overlapping domains, these systems influence and transform each other, but the nature of this interaction is often misunderstood -- largely because capitalism has not been recognized as a system of governance. Rejecting the simple definition "capitalism = actions of firms in markets," Harvard's Bruce R. Scott offers instead a conception of capitalism as a three-level system akin to organized sports, in which games (markets) are conducted according to rules administered by referees (regulators), which in turn are shaped and directed by sports' governing bodies (political authorities).

Tracing the evolution of capitalism from a variety of perspectives, Scott shows how governance has always been key to the system. Historically, capitalism was not a natural outgrowth of trade; it could not have emerged without political authorization for the creation of markets for land, labor, and capital. Urgently needing funds for military defense, regimes ceded some power to a new class of economic actors, spelling out their rights and responsibilities with corporate charters. The United States Constitution was anomalous in reserving to individual states the power to grant such charters, with the result that states compete to offer firms the least regulation. The Constitution also gave exceptional powers to the Supreme Court, which has interpreted the Constitution as mandating laissez-faire policies.

It is impossible to adequately understand capitalism without understanding the role played by governance. This book challenges the notion of a "universal" model of capitalism, particularly one based on the US system, and illuminates the broader frameworks upon which markets depend.


Antagonistic Symbiosis Capitalism Democracy Globalization Governance

Authors and affiliations

  • Bruce R. Scott
    • 1
  1. 1.Harvard Business SchoolPaul W. Cherington Professor EmeritusBostonUSA

Bibliographic information