3 to 5pm
Capitalization Takes Command: Railroads, Slavery and the Pricing of Progress in 1850s America
How did Americans come to quantify their society’s progress and well-being in units of money? This paper roots the rise of GDP-style economic indicators and the pricing of progress in the distinctly capitalist quantification techniques used to manage or invest in railroad corporations and cotton plantations in the 1850s. As economic elites in both the North and South came to quantify their society as a for-profit, capitalized investment, the progress of its inhabitants, free or enslaved, came to be valued according to their moneymaking abilities.
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