WHAT DOES A VENDOR in Indonesia selling vegetables at a kiosk have in common with a street vendor selling electronics on India’s roads or pirated music in Mali? Or what does a repair person in Santiago, Chile, share with a Shenzhen repair shop? To ask more broadly, what does an Iranian carpet trader have in common with an African cell phone trader? On the surface, the answer would be nothing significant, as they all belong to different cultural contexts and deal with varying types of goods. But suppose we get past these noticeable differences in locations and trade specifics. In that case, peeling the layers, we will see many similarities suggesting that they have the same essence of commerce. For instance, these varied groups of actors acutely share the urban experiences of living on the margins. They operate under duress of some sort, either threats from local authorities and sudden evictions from their place of work or being targeted for selling illegal and pirated products as a bourgeois aesthetic of clean, orderly, and “smart” cities dominates our urban visions. They also face stiff competition from e-commerce platforms that are shifting these vendors’ longtime clientele base, and they increasingly feel that their way of life is on its way out. These actors’ similarities do not end in sharing the predicament of being less powerful actors in the urban economy. Street-level businesses have a similar routine and pace of commerce. The actors are likely to bargain to settle prices for their nonstandardized goods, and they often depend on rudimentary infrastructure to display them—tarpaulin sheets to get cover from the rain, everyday tools, and furniture pieces such as wooden benches, chairs, and bamboo sheds (see Figure I.1). To different degrees, all these actors are part of transnational commerce, dealing in cheap consumer items and knock-offs that arrive in ferries from China or trips taken to Hong Kong or Dubai by air by so-called suitcase entrepreneurs. Is there a word to describe the routines of trade and experiential reality of this motley group of urban economic non-elites primarily working with household capital? Perhaps we need an equally traveled word—bazaars.1
In Eric Raymond’s (1999) classic, The Cathedral and the Bazaar, he uses the image of the bazaar to invoke a radical alternative to the hierarchical corporate version of the information society: he describes Linux software as looking like a “great babbling bazaar of different agendas and approaches.” Ever since the origins of modern consumer society, bazaars have been part of an orientalist imaginary as home to goblins and sorcerers from the “East,” a vision intrinsically related to European colonialism. While divergent, both these definitions show why we, as modern minds, cannot shake off our fascination with the term and introduce bazaars as an emancipatory metaphor for change or to hearken back to a mythical time. In fact, there are countless renditions of the word “bazaar,” from animated movies to posters and magazines that seek to capture an entity that is real but so out of sight as to awe and shock in equal measures. It is perhaps the magic that this word conjures in our imagination from fairy tales, myths, and European colonialism that somehow we feel bazaars can be anything, quietly revolutionary or decadent or frightfully alien.
Like all exaggerations, there are some truths to them. In the case of Raymond’s comparison of Linux software with a bazaar, indeed the latter is open, but it is not exactly open the way he saw it as some form of subversive instrument. Physical bazaars are not open as a result of an ideology. They are open in their sociality, posing fewer entry hurdles, whether with new commercial actors or an itinerant group who quickly become part of the bazaar environment and would not be so readily welcomed in elite consumer spaces. Similarly, modern bazaars display a muddling variety of new, old, and stolen products. Yet they do not represent the strange cultures conjured up by the colonial mindset. In fact, far from the exotic and regressive ideas of colonial bazaars, contemporary bazaars are as real as it gets in providing wares to the lowest level of consumers globally. Their great assortment of goods caters to lower-end buyers whose economic constraints push them to look for cheap and wide-ranging alternatives to high-priced consumer items. Physical bazaars cast their networks wide when it comes to aggregating different types of products—stolen, secondhand, pirated, counterfeited, and originals—nobody knows for sure with what demand the next consumer comes. Or, more importantly, who enters the shop next. It can be a new migrant to the city looking for a job. Or an architecture student who could not afford the latest AutoCAD software and is in the bazaar looking for a cheaper, pirated version. Or it could be a rickshaw puller who wants to replace his old phone with a new one. There are also consumers who are looking to make extra money selling their used electronics and other household items for a good price. And a large pool of ordinary consumers want to be dazzled by the experience of owning the latest trending product on their social media feeds.
To be a dealer in a bazaar is to trade in nonstandardized goods, using semi-legal to illegal distribution networks, and in the absence of institutionalized trust, dealers use bargaining and build clientele relationships to settle price. A lot of the characters discussed in the book—street vendors and traders—operate in an economy of face-to-face trade. Although this work provides their lifeline, it also means that these street vendors, small-scale traders, and peddlers in global cities face the grind of being in a competitive urban environment and may be penalized for selling illegal, semi-legal, and often pirated commodities. The stories of places of business destroyed from one day to the next appear in major news portals in the world, how such and such temporary and permanent establishments had to be removed to make way for new roads and construction sites for a sporting venue, housing, urban mall, or other urban redevelopment. One also hears the simple moral argument that bazaars and street businesses are depraved places giving rise to all kinds of antisocial and unhygienic practices, from violating copyrights to serving food with dubious health standards; the latter has been in the news especially when it comes to food hawkers.
However, this book is also about the tenacity of street-level commerce and how small-scale traders, vendors, and peddlers continue to pepper the streets and small shops of global cities despite challenges of different types. This they do by activating personal and familial networks for commerce as well as optimizing most opportunities that come their way, and importantly having a strong sense of the pulse of the ordinary buyer, the aspirations and constraints that are taken into consideration before buying a consumer item. Most actors absorbed in the bazaar economy globally are not from the elite section of society: they are school dropouts, refugees, and migrants to cities looking for new opportunities. In fact, if it were not for bazaar-like places, many of these people would not have found a foothold in a new city. Part of this absorption happens by resorting to existing contacts from village and family ties, but a lot of contacts are also accidental friendships made in a new city. Depending on the skills and the resources one can arrange, traders, peddlers, and vendors take up different positions in the bazaar economy. Usually, people with the least capital and skills would take up odd jobs as loaders and pullers, or as street vendors having their mobile business on the streets. Those who could accrue a little more in the form of household capital, savings, and money borrowed from friends and family would likely be small-scale traders as they have the network and household capital to acquire goods and pay rent and fixed costs. Although status and income differ among the different actors of a bazaar economy, the overall rationale of trading, and the pressures from civic and legal bodies and increasingly from e-commerce businesses, are comparable.
The various chapters of this book expand on the features of an urban bazaar economy to highlight what participating in a bazaar economy entails for a diverse group of non-elite economic actors. Examining these features becomes a way of understanding the legs of a bazaar economy; how do bazaars continue to be in our midst despite not receiving enough attention or support from elite quarters? One answer, discussed in Chapter 1, lies in their aesthetic composition, how bazaars have managed to carve a space in the interstices of visible structures, whether that be the narrow alleys leading off of main roads or dilapidated architecture, and how they host an excess of bodily and commodity forms. It is as if the cracks and fissures of urban cities are the natural homes of marginalized groups whose futures are not always taken into consideration when making changes. In fact, bazaars take hold of parts of state infrastructure and the streets that are not brand-new. They are found in dilapidated edifices only just functioning that let non-elites take their chances but that are not good enough for elites who have moved into new, flashier spaces. As Chapters 2 and 3 show, dealers at bazaars are able to experiment with existing knowledge structures and embodied and traditional crafts that then compensate for their lack of access to formal market devices such as advertising, marketing teams, and computer-generated datasets. Instead, bargaining is where the battle of price and profit is set. Of course, at one level, the pressure of finding a way against all odds, having to constantly innovate and be on the alert, takes a toll on bazaar actors. Still, a few things work in their favor in a competitive urban environment when it comes to collective negotiation for desirable changes and navigating the power corridors of global cities. Chapter 4, on ethics, elaborates on the physical and emotional toll on bazaar actors operating in a hostile urban environment, as well as on the personal ethics providing solace in the most grueling business hours. Chapter 5, on the interaction between e-commerce platforms and bazaars, shows the latter’s resilience in facing different challenges. This chapter elaborates on how the technological question varies for different groups. For e-commerce platforms, it has more to do with centralizing exchange through shopping, digital payments, and delivery managed through a single portal. In the case of bazaars, digital technologies rub shoulders with bargaining routines and face-to-face commerce, thereby combining new technologies with age-old tricks and practices of commerce.
While historical and anthropological writings inform the layers of a bazaar economy, the heart of this book is small-scale traders and street vendors I met in Delhi’s electronic marketplaces—Lajpat Rai, Palika Bazaar, and Nehru Place. I started with a year-long ethnography of these bazaars between September 2012 and 2013. I spent large parts of 2012 acclimatizing to the places, and it was well into the first months of 2013 that I started visiting the marketplaces daily to get an in-depth understanding of the routines of trade. As I was investigating mainly vendors and traders of video games, the trade-related information also became a way to understand the ordinary use and exchange of media products. Some of the information covered in the book pertains to video games. Yet these dealers share with other marketplaces the predisposition to rely on common resources and interpersonal networks alongside bazaar shenanigans to get through their everyday minor to significant crises. Even after my 12 months of fieldwork, I visited these marketplaces once or twice yearly. The last visit was in April 2022. Apart from the pandemic years (2020–21), I was back in the marketplaces talking to my initial contacts and expanding to new people, trying to see where and what kind of changes these bazaars underwent. The longitudinal study gave me a grounding to understand the permanent features of these marketplaces and examine change and adjustments. I spoke at length to traders of video games in Palika Bazaar and Lajpat Rai Market and street vendors in Nehru Place. These were men between the ages of nineteen and sixty-five selling consoles of video games and pirated CDs and DVDs from small shops and pavements. Many were from middle-class business families whose other members were trading in different marketplaces in the city. In the case of the street vendors, they were mostly from slum redevelopment colonies in the vicinity of Nehru Place.2
I use the term “tinker” to talk about the motley group of small-scale traders and street vendors in the field. It is clear that the bazaar actors were not just selling video games. They are also innovators and creators in their own rights. “Tinker” connects earlier marginal groups such as Roma and Irish tinkers with tools and tricks similar to those of the electronic tinkers in Delhi’s bazaars, the latest group getting by with an ingenious use of available resources, a sense of the theatrical followed by innovative use of the body. Using “bazaar” and “tinker” side by side is a way to see if we gain something by reintroducing these concepts to our everyday understanding of economic systems. Of course, “bazaar” has had different meanings attached to it, some emancipatory and others problematic. A part of the exercise is drawing from sources and saying something about urban bazaars that share similarities with peasant marketing, souks, and colonial bazaars. Sometimes, such analysis may be at the cost of losing a certain definitional rigor and running the risk of generalization, but in the possible lapses also emerge new ways of gazing at existing and past connections. I take many such liberties in this book, like comparing street repair scenes in different contexts and analyzing them side by side with fairs, carnivals, marketplaces, and bazaars, or talking about magicians, street performers, hackers, and tinkers in the same place.3 Of course, individual contexts carry specificities that may not extend to their comparative cases. It is fulfilling to see what comparisons allow rather than what they dissuade. Perhaps economic non-elites have been invisible in mainstream life for too long as there is no single category that directly addresses their predicament. By extending categories like bazaars and tinkers, this book makes a case for centering the affect and the everyday realities of economic non-elites whose sense of precarity often overshadows other experiences of being in a city.
Apart from detailing the life of urban bazaars, this book has another imperative. The features of a bazaar economy show that the actors are not in their day-to-day life strictly capitalist. They partake in trade and profit, but such pursuits don’t take on a character of incessant accumulation at the cost of social and moral values. This is where the theoretical lineage of the book comes to the fore. It is not arguing bazaars to be outside of capitalism or the opposite of capitalism. By showing the everyday workings and features of a bazaar economy, it presents how bazaars operate quite differently from the neoclassical idea of homo economicus and, in some cases, its opposite ideas of reciprocity and redistribution. Bazaars or market exchanges are in-between, an idea that historian Fernand Braudel developed in the twentieth century to emphasize that not every type of economic exchange is monopolistic and that there is a dense middle layer of competitive market exchanges. A bazaar economy is very much in contact with everyday life, or the longue durée. Indeed, if we consider these distinct yet interactive layers, we can build an understanding of bazaars in relationship to capitalism on one side and everyday life on the other. I argue that the bazaars display more substantial contact with everyday life than with high finance and the speculation of capitalism. Most critical literature has focused on capitalism as an all-encompassing system, and it is so in many ways. Even a cursory look at the literature about the gaming economy finds that it uses the concept of playbour to show the infiltration of capital into all aspects of everyday life, including leisure activities. But what we lose out on by emphasizing the problematics of capitalism as the only critique necessary for our times is to ignore places and practices that are not exploited by capitalism in the exact way of institutional and professional players. Places like bazaars are so misunderstood or ignored that the same criticism that would work for middle-class professionals or peasants losing at some level the distinction between productive and nonproductive time might not exactly work for bazaar actors.
The bazaar strays away from being strictly a capitalism pawn because there is still considerable control that the petty bourgeoisie of bazaar traders and vendors enjoy when it comes to controlling their businesses and not working under someone. They can choose what type of products they bring into the marketplace. Not everything has to go through big capitalist supply chains or follow their price logic. In that way, a vegetable vendor can sell a cucumber from his patch one day and decide to buy from his neighbor another day. The same is the case with the video game traders I studied in Delhi; they do not depend on one distributor network and creditor to sustain the business. Bazaar traders and street vendors control their finances. They are free to circulate money among different actors using a host of networks, some formal like banks but also hawala and informal credit. The possibility of being independent businesses puts them in a slightly tricky position compared with someone directly employed by a capitalist enterprise.
Of course, that does not mean bazaars are out of the reach of capitalist power. Bazaar dealers aren’t secure in their position in the urban economy, because the argument about ignominy works here, and despite the relative independence of bazaar-level actors, none of them play a crucial role in the public sphere, particularly in deciding the fate of spaces where they operate. They are not the ones celebrated as business innovators, and in the rare case that they are, for instance as frugal innovators, the story becomes an individual narrative of heroism rather than bringing out the struggles they face on an everyday basis. Their economic power isn’t strong enough to shape significant economic and urban policies. The position of the bazaar economy, somehow not entirely under the grip of capitalism and still maintaining its independence, does not provide any tangible form of power and agency in the genuine sense.
The actors remain the non-elites of any given situation, and they survive by carving out a resilience relationship with the commons of everyday life. That is, the global bazaar economy finds refuge in the urban commons of sociality, abandoned buildings and goods, streets, and ruins, waste, and recycled products. Each chapter of this book presents facets of an urban bazaar economy. These elements—aesthetics, knowledge, ethics, and change—exist because bazaars are in closer contact with shared resources than with capitalist structures in their day-to-day operations. In other words, unruly everyday life impinges on the bazaar economy far more than state laws, global supply chains of branded products, formal market devices, and algorithms of pricing and advertising. This has allowed bazaars to survive in the crevices of global capitalism without ultimately becoming its shadow.
A good contrast is the digital economy of e-commerce platforms that are now the biggest competition of bazaar-level exchanges, hanging like a bridge over actual transactions with their self-sufficient manner and only distant interactions with the travails of ordinary lives. With ubiquitous internet connections and cheap smartphones, there is a push toward adopting specific centralized structures such as e-commerce for shopping and digital payment for other transactions. This model gets superimposed on everyday life and is about profit maximization for certain groups in control of the digital infrastructure of aggregators, service providers, and third-party mediators.
Unlike the e-commerce economy, another way of life is not superimposed when bazaars navigate the latest products, such as Delhi’s traders and vendors dealing with video games. A new product is embedded in the societal fabric of the bazaar and adjusts to the rhythms of human and nonhuman networks rather than destroying existing ties. This symbiotic relationship is why talking of unique characteristics of a bazaar economy makes sense, as the street-level economy worldwide is closest to the rhythm of ordinary life. It absorbs a maximum number of people and practices, keeping alive diversity of exchange by putting client relationships and bargaining at the center. In this way, bazaars adjust to varying demands. They are rooted in the social context rather than introducing something entirely alien that might be convenient from a comfort standpoint but, in the process, also creates isolated existence. The latter has been the experience with elite-level digital economies of platforms and digital credit systems destroying community-level exchanges. Instead, they are capitalist structures that initially dip into the same pool of resources and networks that bazaars do, such as cheap commodities and labor. Once such platforms get a foundation, the model works by wiping out all competition even though it means jeopardizing the societal fabric of interdependent actors and producing isolated actors who have by now gotten used to using their services and are at the mercy of impersonal infrastructure.
Roshan, one of the traders from Delhi’s Lajpat Rai Market, notes how difficult it is to have face-to-face conversations with people now. It is almost a dying art, and he says his friends comment on his ability to be a good speaker because he keeps the conversation going with different topics when they meet; otherwise everyone is busy on their cell phones. Roshan felt he had a particular skill to talk and not be forever distracted by the phone. Of course, things are different in the work setting. In the bazaar environment, people speak to attract consumers to the shop, even if it means muttering the names of products sold. Bazaars and street-level economies remain the last economic spaces to accommodate change without destroying community-level interaction and exchanges.
In the next part of the Introduction, I develop a genealogy of the bazaar economy to understand its role through changing times. The early views of the bazaars from medieval, colonial, and postcolonial times give a context to understand the permanent features of a bazaar and its changing political and economic role. Deep into the Introduction, I pick up on the most recent type of bazaar configuration, that is, urban bazaars, and open them up for comparison with capitalist systems via Fernand Braudel’s tripartite conceptualizations of economic life. Braudel’s work and discussion on the longue durée ground the theoretical framework of this book: bazaars’ relationship with capitalism and commons, which I keep coming back to in the various chapters. I finish the Introduction by providing details about my ethnography and the trials of studying crowded marketplaces as a woman.
Starting with exchanges on the Persian Royal Road, the Han dynasty was important in making trade between Europe and Asia a regular feature. The market and port towns developed as nodes on trade routes where silk, spices, ceramics, gunpowder, and paper from “The East” got exchanged for silver, gold, horses, and wool from “The West” (Daryaee 2010). Bazaars were the centers of commerce at the time when Europe embarked on its early trajectory of capitalist development. As capitalist commercial exchange established itself as the most significant form of commercial life, bazaars were increasingly represented in relation to this new dominant economic form as pre-capitalist, proto-capitalist, or anti-capitalist.
For much of economic history, the European bazaars of antiquity and the Middle Ages acted as pre-capitalist. When Peter Bang (2011) wrote about the Roman bazaars, he stressed how they shared more similarities with Mughal bazaars than with capitalism. Roman marketplaces resembled Mughal bazaars as both these places sold a range of products and were embedded in a complex web of taxes and networks of mutual favors. Bang’s analysis worked backwards to show that certain types of dense market exchanges were as much a part of European antiquity as of modern India. Indeed, in this strand of analysis, bazaars were the central organizing principle of a pre-capitalist world economy (Abu-Lughod 1989) that connected, by way of the Silk Road, India and China in the East via the Middle East to Europe in the North.4 Peter Frankopan (2015) describes how dense commerce existed between the steppes in Central Asia, China, and Venice before the onset of European modernity. All this work suggests an early world economy organized through bazaar-like exchanges where merchants and traveling tradespeople satisfied the consumer demands of a metropolis like Baghdad that was emerging as a center for learning where scholars, painters, and poets congregated, much like Paris in the early twentieth century.
Toward the fourteenth century, the early world economy was gradually replaced by a system organized around a small number of powerful players, notably the Italian city-states of Venice, Florence, Pisa, and later Genoa. This new “cycle of accumulation,” as Giovanni Arrighi (1994) calls it in his book The Long Twentieth Century, was structured around a number of novel organizational mechanisms, like letters of credit or double-entry bookkeeping, that were able to formalize economic transactions and increasingly make them subject to calculation. It was also governed by a new, powerful class of merchant capitalists who were able to mobilize and command state power in the form of military might as well as monopolies and other concessions. In the early days of transition from feudalism to capitalism, bazaar-like market exchanges rose in prominence and as a feature of ordinary life, particularly for the increasingly powerful new middle class or the rural English gentry.5 They created among other things a consumerist spirit. Historians have examined how the vanity fair and charity bazaars helped shape the modern consumer who went shopping for consumer items. The well-endowed shop windows in London contributed to generating a new enthusiasm for consumer goods.6 New habits, such as “window shopping” and absorbing a shopping experience, were particularly important for women who were responsible for making purchases for the household and became the main agents of consumer culture (Prochaska 1977; Rappaport 2001). Krista Lysack (2005), for instance, puts Christina Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market” into context and develops it as an exploration of desires where women were free to masquerade as different actors, an aspect that was largely unavailable to Victorian middle-class women. At the same time, by participating in “oriental bazaars,” women were steeped in stereotypes as these places were not seen as civic and were rather places of degradation of bourgeoisie norms, offering cheap spectacles of dragons, decadence, and magic. The colonial mindset attributed to Victorian bazaars continued as capitalist structures of factories and formal shopping centers began to adorn the high streets of Europe. At this point, bazaars were typecast as insidious places spreading evils and sorcery from the “East,” threatening to pollute bourgeois English values. Chinese opium and gaming dens in London raised concerns about racial intermixing in cities. “As Edward W. Said and Rana Kabbani have demonstrated at length, people in Western societies perceive few human realities with more fear, fascination, and overriding hostility than ‘the Orient’: that ideological construction positing the Islamic, Turkish, and Arab cultures as the opposite of ‘us’ in ‘the Occident.’ To associate the Oriental bazaar with Englishwomen—with ‘sacred home,’ ‘happy and innocent virgins’—is to assimilate, to domesticate that foreign presence and all it suggests, making it chaste, respectable, English” (Dyer 1991, 201). Exaggerated images of foreign lands with their strange customs developed at the height of European colonialism.7
Bazaars now featured as utterly antithetical to capitalism (Geertz 1978; Lamieri and Bertacchini 2006). In such writings, bazaars got categorized as irrational places with neither adequate organizational structures nor formal communicative channels. In twentieth-century scholarship, bazaars receded to the role of marginal economic systems mainly on account of their seemingly irrational nature when compared to the firm or the capital market (Fanselow 1990). The dual conceptualization of bazaars shows the link that these spaces had with capitalism: how they preceded capitalism and were subsequently marginalized by it as capitalism became the main production logic in industrial Europe, leading to the gradual disappearance of bazaars from mainstream social and economic theory.
It was a classic orientalist framework whereby Europe and the rest of the world worked through binaries and a strategic distortion of everyday commercial practices. As modernity shaped a particular worldview at the cost of others, the alternative systems and forms of knowledge almost disappeared. The disappearance was not so much about their physical invisibility as it was about a lack of mention in mainstream discourses. Indeed, most academic writings in the twentieth century focused on capitalism or the aftermath of capitalist expansion. Not only is this the case with “trickle-down economics” celebrating a laissez-faire approach but also so-called critical approaches were neglecting alternative forms of economic life. For instance, the center-periphery approach, critical in outlining the imperialist tendency of capitalist expansion building on uneven development of geographical regions, failed to highlight other forms of economic life (Amin et al. 1990). Despite their relative absence in official plans and critical discourses, bazaars continued as an important feature of ordinary life. And a particular key role played by urban bazaars has kept this economic system of face-to-face commerce with us as they provide consumer items to a large pool of non-elites globally.
1. In colonial India, elites were landed aristocrats, bureaucrats, and politicians. In postcolonial India, what now emerges as the “the new middle-class” (Fernandes 2006; Saavala 2010), the white-collar English-educated professionals alongside the corporate and business elite, have joined the traditional elite category (Chatterjee 2008). The non-elites are groups of people who fall outside these categories.
2. The slum redevelopment colonies were in various parts of Delhi. The government provided an alternative place of residence to thousands of people who found their houses destroyed because of urban redevelopment projects. The street vendors in Nehru Place succumbed to such demolition drives. Many of them lived in slums close to the marketplace before they were relocated a few kilometers away.
3. Wasiak (2014) focuses on the link between the bazaar and the home through his account of the Polish hacking scene in the late 1980s. As an observer of personal computing, he points out that computer magazines created a culture of hacking among young people in the communist regime in Poland as the government censored other distribution networks. As a result, informal networks grew to surpass state sanctions. Hackers and bazaars worked together. But soon, the two entities were incompatible as the romanticism sometimes attached to hacking as a counterculture was disappointingly unavailable in bazaars as places of commerce. “In technology enthusiasts’ view, computer bazaars should be sites where computer users instead of entrepreneurs sold their old computers and peripherals for a fair price. The software would be exchanged on a nonprofit basis. In reality, peddlers moved in from other bazaars and quickly took over the supply of hardware and pirate software. Hackers did not anticipate this transformation of a large part of the informal innovation to take the character of bazaar style exchange. Computer magazines and the popular press targeted the bazaars for their shady economic activities, even as sources of piracy software” (Wasiak 2014, 133).
4. See T. Roy 2012; De Vries 1994; Wolf 1982.
5. The transition from feudalism to capitalism did not happen overnight and was not without its challenges. In Trading Spaces: The Colonial Marketplace and the Foundations of American Capitalism, Hart (2019) argues that before British colonizers established capitalist trading places in America, much changed on the home front. Until about the eighteenth century, marketplaces were about an “industrious” local community who traded “quality wares” and cared about the common good more than private interest—“that bargains would be honest, prices fair, deals observed, and stolen goods prevented from entering the marketplace” (Hart 2019, 21). Many processes, such as guilds and traveling peddlers, eroded the links of local life to marketplaces and fairs. “Markets became more abstracted as places when these merchants were joined from the early eighteenth century by factors, who acted as brokers and transporters in the cheese, cattle, and grain trades” (27).
6. It is striking that much more than the exchange itself, the universe that early bazaars conjured brought people to participate in such spectacle. In a way, the exotic bazaars in Europe led to the development of a shopping habit, initially needing something spectacular to bring people into shops and eventually being replaced by more mundane commodities. This spirit of the unexpected is brought out quite forcefully in the 1845 edition of Douglas Jerrold’s Shilling Magazine: “A ‘Bazaar’—’tis a trite word for commonplace thing—often an idle mart for children’s trumpery—brought forth of laborious idleness. But an idea can ennoble any its true sense, is an idea; and how grand is the idea which ennobles our bazaars which, even apart from its claims as an industrial exposition, makes it a great and holy thing. ‘Free Trade.’ These words form a spell by which the world will yet be governed. They are the spirit of a dawning creed—a creed which already has found altars and temples worthy of its truth. The Anti-Corn Law League Bazaar has raised thoughts in the national mind which will not soon die. As a spectacle it was magnificent in the extreme; but not more grand materially than it was morally. The crowd who saw it, thought as well as gazed. It was not a mere huge shop for selling wares; but a great school for propagating an idea” (Gurney 2006, 390).
7. See Said 1979.