• Ages of American Capitalism

  • A History of the United States
  • By: Jonathan Levy
  • Narrated by: John Lee
  • Length: 31 hrs and 44 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (61 ratings)

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Ages of American Capitalism

By: Jonathan Levy
Narrated by: John Lee
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Publisher's Summary

A leading economic historian traces the evolution of American capitalism from the colonial era to the present - and argues that we’ve reached a turning point that will define the era ahead.

“The best one-volume history of American capitalism.... It is impossible to understand the United States without understanding its economic history. This book, from one of the nation’s foremost historians of capitalism, brings that important and endlessly fascinating story to life.” (Sven Beckert, author of Empire of Cotton)

Today, in the midst of a new economic crisis and severe political discord, the nature of capitalism in United States is at a crossroads. Since the market crash and Great Recession of 2008, historian Jonathan Levy has been teaching a course to help his students understand everything that had happened to reach that disaster and the current state of the economy, but in doing so he discovered something more fundamental about American history. Now, in an ambitious single-volume history of the United States, he reveals how, from the beginning of US history to the present, capitalism in America has evolved through four distinct ages and how the country’s economic evolution is inseparable from the nature of American life itself.

The Age of Commerce spans the colonial era through the outbreak of the Civil War, a period of history in which economic growth and output largely depended on enslaved labor and was limited by what could be drawn from the land and where it could be traded. The Age of Capital traces the impact of the first major leap in economic development following the Civil War: the industrial revolution, when capitalists set capital down in factories to produce commercial goods, fueled by labor moving into cities. But investments in the new industrial economy led to great volatility, most dramatically with the onset of the Great Depression in 1929. The Depression immediately sparked the Age of Control, when the government took on a more active role in the economy, first trying to jump-start it and then funding military production during World War II. Skepticism of government intervention in the Cold War combined with recession and stagflation in the 1970s led to a crisis of industrial capitalism and the withdrawal of political will for regulation. In the Age of Chaos that followed, the combination of deregulation and the growth of the finance industry created a booming economy for some but also striking inequalities and a lack of oversight that led directly to the crash of 2008.

In Ages of American Capitalism, Jonathan Levy proves that, contrary to political dogma, capitalism in the United States has never been just one thing. Instead, it has morphed throughout the country’s history - and it’s likely changing again right now.

* This audiobook includes a downloadable PDF containing graphs and maps.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2021 Dr. Jonathan Levy (P)2021 Random House Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

“Prodigiously researched, elegantly written, and relentlessly interesting...Ages of American Capitalism deftly weaves strands of economic, business, political, social and intellectual history into an engaging, accessible narrative.” (The Washington Post)

“Prodigious...a vivid social and geopolitical history.” (Boston Review

“It is impossible to understand the United States without understanding its economic history. This book, from one of the nation’s foremost historians of capitalism, brings that important and endlessly fascinating story to life, taking the reader on a whirlwind tour of plantations and factories, boardrooms and government offices. If you want to get a better sense of where we are, think about how we got here.” (Sven Beckert, author of Empire of Cotton

What listeners say about Ages of American Capitalism

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Hard to imagine a better one-volume economic history of the US

I really enjoyed listening to this book. I come to it as an economist though not a history buff by any means. The book maintained a good pace without leaving me in the dark at any point. Levy sets up a particular economic analytic framework early on — a classically Keynesian one — and uses it to great effect in his analysis of the macro trends throughout US history. Some may quibble with his analysis here and there but Levy is clear and consistent throughout.

A particular strength is Levy’s attention to cultural phenomena. Interspersed with the history and economics are short and delightful forays into the art and the entertainment of the eras under consideration. These are fun and surprising and provide a nice break from facts dates and figures.

I also appreciated Levy’s detailed accounts of business operations. Two standouts are Carnegie’s steelworks and Silicon Valley. These sections are interesting in their own right, but also provide essential context to the macroeconomic developments they illuminate.

The narrator is very good too.

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The narrator. The book.

The narrator lets his voice trail off at the end of phrases and sentences, requiring multiple rewinds.
Aside from that, his inflection and clarity are good.
The book is a wonderful blending of economic, political, and cultural history, and their symbiosis. A grand and sweeping tale, well told.

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Terrible

I don't agree with the author's assumptions, and it is clear he is biased. The writing is not engaging and it starts dragging from the get go.

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What a tour de force of an economic’s lesson

A great book! Really drew out the reasons why our economy keeps getting blindsided. Too many ideas from others were bound up in form-fitted ideology. In the last decade, I also determined the gold standard was bogus. It was so hidebound, stuck in a former time where things moved much slower.

1 person found this helpful