John Lauritz LarsonThe Market Revolution: Liberty, Ambition and the Eclipse of the Common Good

Cambridge University Press, 2011

by Benjamin A. Concannon Smith on October 28, 2012

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It’s not often you come across a book of such versatility as John Lauritz Larson’s The Market Revolution: Liberty, Ambition and the Eclipse of the Common Good (Cambridge University Press, 2010). Larson meticulously examines the United States’ transition too its modern capitalistic state from its simple agrarian roots. Starting at the close of the War for Independence, Larson explores the role of the nascent American government on its quest for viability. He pays careful attention to the mechanisms and innovations that spurred the early government to abandon its eighteenth century “neo-mercantilist” policies in exchange for the more liberal capitalist policies, ushering in an embrace for modern concepts like creative destruction. Larson’s thoughtful analysis of innovations and technological advances works to problematizes our tendency to think of this period in American history as a period of “progress.” Though it is true that many innovations were largely beneficial, unveiling progress as a relative term with a situational dependency that cannot and should not be overshadowed is both necessary and refreshing.

Larson’s adroit ability to synthesize decades of scholarship in a clear and concise manner while managing to stay faithful to the complexity of the topic is most commendable. That he is able to accomplish all of this in a book of less than two hundred pages is a testament to his skills both historian and writer. Though written for general readership, the professional historian will discover there is much to take away from this book and will find its potential for classroom utility palpable.

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