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The Development of Capitalism in The Navajo Nation

261 pages3 hours


The Development of Capitalism in the Navajo Nation traces the development of three industries during the period 1850 - 1980 that were widespread among Navajo people during this period. These industries are sheep herding, rug weaving, and jewelry making. There is a focus in the early period on the role of military conquest and the role of the military and the federal government. Later on the role of merchant capital, i.e. the traders, becomes predominant. The connection of local traders to national and international trade are explored, particularly in the weaving industry. The arrival of the railroads and a significant tourist industry had a big impact on Navajo economy. Incursions by local non-natives and the role of the federal government during the depression of the 1930s began a new transformation of the Navajo into a wage-earning population, and this was consolidated by World War II and the aftermath, as it played out in the region around Navajo Nation. In order to clarify the particular nature of development among the Navajo people, the development of capitalism is compared and contrasted between the Navajo and the Russian peasantry. in the case of the Russian peasantry, as capitalism developed, some peasants became wealthy and employed the large number of peasants who became increasingly impoverished. In the case of the Navajo, the tendency was for the vast majority of the Navajos to become impoverished because their economic development was controlled by merchant capital which captured the potential profits and revenues and sent them out of the local economy. In short, military conquest followed by the control of economic development by merchant capital shaped the general impoverization of the Navajo, and greatly influenced the profile of Navajo economic development to this day.

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