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 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.

Program for 2014-2015:

Inequality in the Political Economy of Modern Capitalism 

In 2014-2015, the Workshop on the Political Economy of Modern Capitalism takes "Inequality" as its focus. Inequality, a long-running theme in approaches to capitalism, has exploded into contemporary debate with the publication of Thomas Piketty's book, Capital in the 21st Century.  Piketty's argument takes inequality as a distributive issue, building on a long tradition including Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and social welfarist theories.  Inequality may also be a civic concern, one that goes to the quality of political voice,  community engagement, or legal process that people experience rather than the quantity of wealth they can claim.  The Workshop will explore these different attempts to grapple with "inequality," as well as divergent approaches that distinctively conceptualize the problem and its relationship to modern capitalism.

The workshop meets on Monday afternoons at 4:00 PM in Robinson Lower Library. Please join the Program on the Study of Capitalism's email announcement list for the latest updates and information on the Workshop and other events and activities of interest on campus. 

Schedule of Speakers: 

FALL 2014

Sept. 29: "Exceptional. The Astors, the New York Elite, and a Story of American Inequality," Shamus Khan (Sociology, Harvard University); Comment:  Dr. Rashmi (History, University of Hyderabad)


Oct. 20: "The Quest for Equality and Respect: Dealing with Discrimination and Stigmatization in the United States, Brazil, and Israel," Michele Lamont (Sociology, Harvard University); Comment: Bryant Etheridge (History, MIT)

Nov. 17: "From Small Farms to Progressive Plantations: Counterinsurgency, Land Policy, and Inequality in the American Colonial Phlippines, 1900-1916," Theresa Ventura (History, Concordia University); Comment: John Womack (History, Harvard University)

Dec. 1: "Meritocracy and the Crisis of Capitalism," Daniel Markovits (Yale Law School); Comment: Stephen Shay (Professor of Practice, Harvard Law School)


Jan. 26: "The Constitution of Opportunity: Reclaiming Constitutional Political Economy," William Forbath and Joseph Fishkin (University of Texas Law School); Comment: Vicki Jackson (Thurgood Marshall Professor of Constitutional Law, Harvard Law School)

Feb. 9: "Possessive Collectivism: Ownership and the Politics of Credit Access in Late Twentieth-Century America," Greta Krippner (Sociology, University of Michigan)

Mar. 3: "Fiscal Struggles and the Rise of Civic Equality in Old Regime France," William Sewell (History and Political Science, University of Chicago); Comment: Mary Lewis (History, Harvard University)

Mar. 23: TBA

Apr. 6: TBA


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