Mongrel Firebugs and Men of Property
Capitalism and Class Conflict in American History
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272 pages / September 2019 / 9781788736701
September 2019 / 9781788736725

Steve Fraser is the preeminent historian of America as a capitalist civilization

In popular retellings of American history, capitalism generally doesn’t feature much as part of the founding or development of the nation. Instead, it is alluded to in figurative terms as opportunity, entrepreneurial vigor, material abundance, and the seven-league boots of manifest destiny.

In this collection of essays, Steve Fraser, the preeminent historian of American capitalism, sets the record straight, rewriting the arc of the American saga with class conflict center stage and mounting a serious challenge to the consoling fantasy of American exceptionalism. From the colonial era to Trump, Fraser recovers the repressed history of debtors’ prisons and disaster capitalism, of confidence men and the reserve armies of the unemployed. In language that is dynamic and compelling, he demonstrates that class is a fundamental feature of American political life and provides essential intellectual tools for a shrewd reading of American history.


“Fraser is our preeminent historian of America as a capitalist civilization. No one is more attuned to the inner vibrations of our monied culture.”

“A spirited collection by an erudite and penetrating essayist. Fraser is an analyst of the culture of late capitalism and, among other things, he demonstrates with impressive clarity the connections between the economic changes we call neoliberalism and the psycho-cultural dramas generated by the siren song of faux populism.”

“Steve Fraser is our most incisive and encompassing cultural historian of the two gilded ages that structured American society and its economic ethos in the decades that have bracketed the nation’s fleeting New Deal interregnum. Fraser has captured the emotive logic of capitalist hegemony and the dark appeal it has so often held for millions of acquiescent Americans.”

“In this collection of bracing essays, Fraser brings to the fore the perils and promise of class warfare and the daunting challenges faced by everyone who hopes to defy history and work for a just society.”

“These essays show that Steve Fraser has long been one of the wisest and most eloquent historians of American capitalism and its discontents. Erudite, passionate, and laced with wit, they are essential reading during our era of great perils and budding hopes for change.”

“One of our best social historians set the record straight about the mythologies of American capitalism.”

“One of our best social historians set the record straight about the mythologies of American capitalism.”

“[The essays] display his encyclopedic knowledge of U.S. history, especially working-class history.”

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