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Home > Book Reviews > Synopsis - Book Review - Global Capitalism Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century

Synopsis - Book Review - Global Capitalism Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century
Written by Orna Gadish   

Global Capitalism: Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century by Jeffry Frieden, PhD

Book review, book synopsis and detailed summary
by Orna Gadish, M.Sc

Prologue: Into the Twentieth Century

Frieden mentions Thomas Hobbes' metaphor:" Wealth is power and  power is wealth”(2) to describe the mercantile economic theory and order prevalent in Europe during the early modern period. The aphorism stresses the control of the wealthy over economy, and through it, over local decision making, such as politics (e.g., colonial power forced its colonies to trade with the mother country to enrich the government and its supporters) and military might for the benefit of the mighty (2).

In the mercantile system wealth and riches of the rich (e.g., often of the rulers, the crown, and the army) were translated into economic, political, and military power that again was sustained by wealth— by federal accumulation of gold and silver, protection of small industries from import (trade barriers), and maximizing export at the expense of free trade. But not only did the rulers conceive of mercantilism to be beneficial, their subjects also felt protected under the economic growth of the mercantile trade and the mercantile military power (3).

Though weakening of mercantilism was observed by the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the end of mercantilism and the beginning of global capitalism is signaled by Britain's Industrial Revolution starting around 1750 (3). Technological innovations such as railroads, steamships, telegraphs, telephones (5), as well as new machinery, and new organizational forms, and accounting methods (banking)— created new interests for free trade among British industrialist and manufacturing classes alike.

During the transition toward capitalism, and also later, free traders focused on the benefit of access to inexpensive goods, especially the cheap foods, while the opposing mercantile protectionist farmers focused on battling the free trading manufacturers and bankers (4).

In the end, capitalism won, and free trading became a global standard, not only in England but also around the world. The gold standard as global money facilitated global trade, lending, and investment in banks and in the stock market— empowering the capitalist system even further. However, the free trade, the gold standard, and the new technologies that boosted the capital also imposed threats on the global market (7).

Calls to abandon the global capitalism and retreat to colonial order of protection and barriers, or the mercantile economic order or remnants of it— were (and still are) present each time a "crack" in the capitalist system is formed. For instance, small farmers and small manufacturers that could not produce as a result of cheap international trade called for government help. Employees that were laid off as a result of new machinery called for protection. Investors who lost money in the market called for state protection.

Especially during economic crises, when gaps between the rich and the poor are widened (such as during the great depression, the 1929 crisis, or even at the current economic recession)— there might be need for governmental overseeing and protection (such as in the case of a bailout), calls against global economic integration (such as against outsourcing in order to create new local jobs), and formation of monopoles both economic and military to stabilize the economic and the social-political condition. Thus, I believe that remnants of mercantilism still exist as balancing factors for the global capitalism which occasionally rises and falls (Gadish).

 Work Cited
Frieden, Jeffry. Global Capitalism: Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century. NY: W. W. Norton, 2006. Print

This prolog has been an excerpt of the synopsis and detailed book review of the book Global Capitalism: Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century by Jeffry Frieden. This synopsis written by Orna Gadish M.Sc. is comprehensive and detailed book-review and summary of the book. It includes commentary and detailed analysis of the book. You are welcome to contact Orna to obtain this exclusive work by email This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

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