Political Economy of Modern Capitalism Workshop

In the fall of 2005, Professors Sven Beckert (FAS, Dept. of History) and Christine Desan (HLS) initiated a new graduate student-faculty research seminar on the Political Economy of Modern Capitalism. The workshop aimed to provide a forum for the intensive interdisciplinary study of capitalism with particular attention to it as an historically situated process of regulating social relations. The topic is unparalleled in importance.  As a political economic form, capitalism defines not only market dynamics, but online mobile casino no deposit bonus contemporary governance structures and social relations. The study of its growth and development therefore attracts scholars from a wide variety of fields, and we believe that their contributions can powerfully stimulate mutual insight.

Please join the Program on the Study of Capitalism's announcement email list to receive information about the Workshop and other events and activities at Harvard. 

Program for 2015-2016:

The Political Economy of Modern Capitalism 

This year the Political Economy of Modern Capitalism Workshop runs jointly with the Warren Center Workshop. Convened by Professors Sven Beckert, Christine Desan, Kenneth Mack, and Michael Zakim, the workship aims 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.


Schedule of Speakers: 

All meetings held in the ROBINSON HALL LOWER LIBRARY, at 4 PM unless otherwise stated. 

FALL 2015

Mon., Oct. 26:

John Larson, Professor of History, Purdue University: “American Revelation: Liberty, Freedom, and Capitalism in the Revolutionary Generation” 

Mon., Nov. 16:

***Lunch Meeting, 12 Noon: Location: Bechtel Room, Emerson Hall 107***

Abby Spinak, PhD in Urban Studies and Planning, MIT: “Liquidating the Countryside: Electricity, Democracy, and the Moral Confusion of American Rural Development”

Mon., Nov. 23:

Noam Maggor, Charles Warren Center Fellow, Harvard University: "The United States as a Developing Nation: Revisiting the Political Economy of the Great American West"

Mon., Nov. 30:

***Lunch Meeting, 12 Noon: Location: Bechtel Room, Emerson Hall 107***

Paul V. Kershaw, PhD in History, New York University: “Deflating Mexico, Bailing Out U.S. Banks, Ignoring Development: Ford, Carter, and IMF Structural Adjustment in Mexico, 1974-1978.”




Mon., Jan. 25:

Lukas Rieppel, Assistant Professor of History, Brown University: “Capitalism and Dinosaur Paleontology” 

Mon., Feb. 8:

Nicolas Barreyre, Associate Professor in American History EHESS: “Our national debt may be a national blessing!': How the Civil War Changed American views on the public debt”

*** Special Joint Meeting with the Global History Seminar****

Mon., Feb 22:

Sir Hilary Beckles, Professor of History and Vice Chancellor, University of the West Indies 


Mon., Feb 29:

Martin Giraudeau, Assistant Professor, London School of Economics

"Inclined Plans. On the Mechanics of Capitalism"

Mon., March 21:

Lily Geismer, Assistant Professor, Claremont McKenna College: “Agents of Change: The Clintons and the Long History of Microfinance in the United States and the World” 

Mon., April 4:

Gabrielle Clark, PhD in Law and Society, New York University: “Planned Migration in WWII United States”

Mon., April 18:

Rebecca Marchiel, Assistant Professor of History, University of Mississippi: "It's Our Money: Defending Financial Common Sense in a Collapsing New Deal Order."


Please join the Program on the Study of Capitalism's announcement email list to receive information about the Workshop and other events and activities at Harvard. 

For more information on upcoming sessions, please check the calendar

Past Syllabi: 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010-2011, 2013-2014

Many student research papers have gone on to be published, a partial list of this research is available here