Charles Warren Center
The History of American Capitalism
Workshop for 2015-16
The 2015-16 Warren Center Workshop will be devoted to the theme of “The History of American Capitalism.” The goal of our project is to encourage and further advance the project of rewriting the history of the American economy. We propose to build on the growing scholarly interest in political economy and the history of capitalism while at once broadening its scope and creating a cross-disciplinary endeavor that embraces the sociology of knowledge, the study of technology and material culture, changing paradigms of political authority, the re-organization of family life, the invention of the modern private subject, and the birth of liberal ideology. We shall accordingly seek to include in the ranks of our fellows and guest lecturers scholars from such diverse fields as anthropology, business, engineering, law, political philosophy, and, yes, economics.
This attempt to “bring the economy back” into social and political history replaces the cliometric-driven genre of “economic history” that once enjoyed near-exclusive franchise over the study of society’s tumultuous experience of wealth, property, markets, abundance, and scarcity. At the same time, we aspire to generate a conversation between other fields of inquiry that have also addressed these questions, whether labor histories of class, business histories of the firm, legal histories of property, intellectual histories of economic thought, institutional histories of the state, or political histories of liberal governance. Our goal is to encourage scholars to transcend such traditional categories in order to begin building the foundations of a new synthesis for understanding the workings of capital and its historical transformation into capitalism.
Such a history of the economy also contravenes orthodox periodizations and common spatial boundaries. And so, in addition to its multi-disciplinary nature, ours is also a multi-national project. That is to say, the development of America’s national economic system unfolded – and continues to unfold – within an insistently global context, whether in terms of disciplinary theory, government policy, the circulation of goods and credit, or the division of labor. Such an expanded perspective informed by world history is integral to understanding the national experience and will likewise be an important emphasis of our seminar.
Fellows will present their work in a seminar led by Sven Beckert (History), Christine Desan (Law School), and Michael Zakim (University of Tel Aviv). Applicants may not be degree candidates and should have a Ph.D. or equivalent. Fellows have library privileges and an office which they must use for at least the 9-month academic year. We especially seek applicants who embrace the challenges of forging scholarly conversations across disciplines. And the Center encourages applications, otherwise consistent with the Workshop theme, relating to the nation’s life during and as a consequence of wars, and from qualified applicants who can contribute, through their research and service, to the diversity and excellence of the Harvard community.