Theories of capitalist class formation presuppose that the historical triumph of the business corporation over the individual proprietorship in major industries derived from either the increasing capital requirements, or the increasing organizational complexity, of industrial development. Similarly, economic historians of the Pennsylvania anthracite mine industry argue that the corporate imperative originated in the economic requirements of mining and transporting coal. In this study, I challenge both the theoretical and empirical forms of the argument which reduce the rise of the corporation and the decline of the individual enterprise to industrial requirements. Instead, I employ an historical comparison of the anthracite industry's three commercial districts to show how class formation, whether by corporations or by individual proprietors, resulted from political class struggles. Specifically, I find that the struggles for corporate charter privileges in the state legislature determined the pattern of class formation in anthracite mining. The finding is significant, first, for underscoring the extra-economic origins of class formation, and, secondly, for revealing the historically contingent quality of class formation.
Jepson, M. (2004), "Entrepreneurs or corporations: Divergent patterns of class formation in the early anthracite mining trade, 1815–1860", Davis, D. (Ed.) Political Power and Social Theory (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 16), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 3-42. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0198-8719(03)16001-2Download as .RIS
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