The emergence of the capitalist economy is most visible in the expansion of markets and monetary exchange. Beginning in the early modern period, markets expanded: processes of commodification accelerated, economies of scale could be realized, and depersonalized exchange oriented toward profit became increasingly prevalent. The labor process, too, came to be dominated by the competitive logic of the market mechanism as broad-scale labor markets emerged in the nineteenth century.
The widespread use of monetary instruments made the expansion of credit- based investments and cost calculations possible. Though this process started in early modernity, it was only in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that it became dominant in shaping economic processes, first in Western Europe and North America, and today globally. Scholars of capitalism have described the preconditions for the development of capitalist markets in great detail: secure property rights, strong state power, double- entry bookkeeping, the development of labor markets, the construction of infrastructure, and the introduction of standardized measurement scales are all necessary conditions for capitalism to expand, and they are systematically foregrounded in historical accounts.
A less- recognized precondition, however, is a change in the temporal disposition of actors; that is, a shift in the principal cognitive orientation of economic actors with regard to relevant time horizons (Bourdieu 1979). These orientations are an integral part of actors’ belief systems and inform their practices; the perception of time is historically specific and is itself an aspect of the social construction of reality (Luhmann 1976: 34).
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