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You are here: FRIAS Fellows Fellows 2019/20 Prof. Dr. Youngsoo Bae

Prof. Dr. Youngsoo Bae

Source: private
Seoul National University, Republic of Korea
External Senior Fellow
October 2019 - July 2020

Room 02 021
Phone +49 (0) 761-203 97318
Fax +49 (0) 761-203 97451


A historian by training, I taught history and in particular United States history at Seoul National University, Republic of Korea. Having recently retired from teaching, I am currently concentrating on my long-term project to rewrite the history of American capitalism. This project has led me to understand capitalist development in perspective of power structure, not that of economic or socio-economic system. It has resulted in two works in progress – a historiographical essay and a multi-volume book.Visiting the FRIAS, I am planning to review major issues in the history of American capitalism, which often demands comparative perspectives. I would like to learn something about German capitalism, which, along with my background in Korean history, would help me explore the United States in a larger context.


Selected Publications

  • [In Korean] In Search of an Alternative to American Exceptionalism (Seoul: Ilchogak, 2011)
  • [In English] Labor in Retreat: Class and Community among Men’s Clothing Workers in Chicago, 1871-1929 (Albany: SUNY Pr., 2001)
  • [Translation] The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution by Bernard Bailyn (Seoul: Saemulgyul, 1999)


FRIAS Research Project

Capitalist Civilization in the United States: Whence and Whither

My project seeks to challenge conventional wisdom by taking a fresh perspective, which is based on a new conception of capitalism. Certainly, capitalism is much more than an economic or socio-economic system. Indeed, a few leading scholars have recently highlighted the political process in their acclaimed works. In my view, the currently available concepts are not both broad and balanced enough to cover changing cultural patterns and natural environment as well as economy, society, and politics. After all, I have come to redefine capitalism as a type of civilization, in essence a power structure in a very wide sense, and to argue that it has a distinctive feature in that economic power is almost independent of political authority, religious command, or physical violence. This conception provides me with a new perspective on capitalist development, whose implications I attempt to explore in my project. In particular, I pose unfamiliar questions, such as to what extent “the love of money,” the sentiment Alan Macfarlane regards as the culture of capitalism, is set free from traditional restraints, or what room is provided for money that it may enjoy autonomy—what position is assigned to economic power in the overall structure of power.