The truth is that no one knows what “the history of capitalism” is because its history is just now being written. But if there is any indication of what it might look like, it appears in Sven Beckert’s remarkable and unsettling new book, Empire of Cotton: A Global History. Beckert insists that many of the myths we tell ourselves about capitalism—how it functions best when government gets out of the way, how it broke clean from slavery—are as false today as they were during its 500-year history. In Beckert’s account, not only does slavery play a pivotal role in capitalism’s rise, but so does the state. Governments supplied the guns, built the roads, enacted the tariffs, and regulated the markets that made, and continue to make, capitalism thrive.