By Meredith L. McGill

About Meredith L. McGill

Meredith L. McGill is Professor of English at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. She is the author of American Literature and the Culture of Reprinting and the editor of The Traffic in Poems: Nineteenth-Century Poetry and Transatlantic Exchange and Taking Liberties with the Author.


References to the market abound in American studies and cultural studies scholarship, but historians and critics who use this term are not always referring to the same thing. As an abstract noun, “market” can refer to the potential demand for a commodity or service or to the actual state of trade at any one moment; it can refer to the trading network for a particular commodity or, more generally, to the business of buying and selling. The phrases “market society” and “market culture” are frequently used to invoke the promises and constraints of a capitalist economy, even though the buying and selling of goods, often to distant consumers, is not specific to capitalism. Economic historians and political theorists have elaborated distinctions that can help us use this term with greater precision: to distinguish stages in the historical development of the US economy and to attend to the uneven growth of

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