What precisely constitutes an American bourgeoisie? Scholars have grappled with the question for a long time. Economic positions—the ownership of capital, for instance—most obviously define this group but cannot explain the emergence of shared identities or the capacity for collective action: after all, economic interests frequently drove capital-rich Americans apart as they competed for markets or governmental favors. Engaging fundamental questions about American society in the nineteenth century, this book argues that one of the most important factors in the self-definition of the bourgeoisie was its articulation of a shared culture.
This is the first comprehensive history of the most powerful group in the nineteenth-century United States: New York City's economic elite. This small and diverse group of Americans accumulated unprecedented economic, social, and political power, and decisively put their mark on the age. Professor Beckert explores how capital-owning New Yorkers overcame their distinct antebellum identities to forge dense social networks, create powerful social institutions, and articulate an increasingly coherent view of the world and their place within it. Actively engaging in a rapidly changing economic, social, and political environment, these merchants, industrialists, bankers, and professionals metamorphosed into a social class. In the process, these upper-class New Yorkers put their stamp on the major political conflicts of the day - ranging from the Civil War to municipal elections. Employing the methods of social history, The Monied Metropolis explores the big issues of nineteenth-century social change.