We are pleased to announce the winner of our second annual student paper prize in Political Economy. This prize is awarded to graduate students enrolled in the Harvard's Workshop on the Political Economy of Modern Capitalism. Selection is based on research papers prepared for the seminar. We have selected Rudi Batzell (History) for this year's award! Please see below for an abstract of his winning paper.
You can read about last year's winning essays, by Shaun Nichols and Duane Rudoph here.
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Rudi Batzell, "The Rise of the Functionary of Capital and the Remaking of Capitalist Class Power: Securities Markets, The Corporate Firm and the Expansion of the State, 1870-1920"
While the local bourgeoisie appeared to be at the height of its cultural prominence and social dominance during the latter half of the nineteenth century, during these very years the process of capitalist accumulation was subtly but unmistakably transforming the social relations of power and dominance. The old locally bounded bourgeoisie lost its hegemony, gradually and unevenly, with the rise of the publicly traded corporate firm and nationally organized interlocking directorates and networks of professional managers, engineers, and accountants. In the steel and shipping industries of Sheffield and Liverpool the shift from proprietary to corporate capitalism marked a fundamental reconfiguration of capitalist class power. From locally based individual firms commanded by patriarchal industrialists, leading steel and shipping companies became far-flung bureaucratic empires of capital accumulation staffed by credentialed cadres of experts, professionals and managers: the new functionaries of capital. The transition to corporate capitalism was deeply intertwined with the emergence of the bureaucratic welfare state. As both the local and central state expanded to manage the social costs of capitalist production, the old bourgeoisie's traditional modes of voluntary action and unchallenged command at the municipal level were threatened by new forms of bureaucratic intervention. In its declining days the old bourgeoisie had to mobilize to fight the incursions of the aggressively expanding state, leading to novel forms of collective action in the early twentieth-century.
The combined pressures of large-scale capital accumulation and the expansion of the state had decisively transformed the network structure of local voluntary associations by 1900; the industrialist and the merchant were no longer the dominant central figures, replaced by the rising influence of managers and the new professions. Local networks of voluntary association were no longer crucial settings for organising capitalist class power. Professional associations served to solidify the social and cultural power of the rising functionaries of capital, and the residual owners found collective articulation through the interlocking directorates of publicly traded companies.