14.5 Conclusion

This chapter has sought to provide a broad outline for understanding some of the more important themes that contextualize the big business in American history. The history is expansive, and so we have held a fairly narrow view of the going concern in a limited period of American history. The value in this approach, however,  has been to focus on a foundational period in American economic history, the 19th century, and explore how the interaction between corporations under the control of members of the business community and legal frameworks established a course of development in which big business becomes a normal feature of capitalism in the United States. By tracing the corporation from its roots in colonial Virginia to the landmark Sherman Act in 1890, we have taken care to view the firm as a vehicle for institutional change and the locus of cumulative causation. Therefore, we walk away from this reading of American economic history with the understanding that thinking about the firm as a site of institutional capacity facilitates a more dynamic understanding of economic development. We see that power, control and influence matter in formulating a rich understanding of why the United States economy developed as it did, rather than following some other technical possibility.

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