ABSTRACT

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, capitalism underwent an important and fundamental transformation. Although the foundations of the system-the laws of private property, the basic class structure, and the processes of commodity production and allocation through the marketremained unchanged, the process of capital accumulation became institutionalized in the large corporation. In the earlier stages of capitalist development, individual capitalists had played a central role in the accumulation process. From their standpoint, the process had depended on organizational skills, cunning, business acumen, ruthlessness, and no small amount of luck. From the standpoint of society, however, the fortune of any particular capitalist was irrelevant-accumulation was an inexorable, ceaseless, spiraling process that had momentum and patterns of development that were quite independent of the actions of any particular capitalist.