About this Project
This project explores new chronological and thematic frameworks for understanding the hyper-capitalism of the twentieth century. Global flows of “hot” money putting pressure on industries and governments; state-of-the-art factories situated in enclaves in the global south; multinationals exercising quasi-governmental functions; the flourishing of metropolitan economies as their surrounding hinterlands stagnate; and the squeeze that environmental constraints put on productive capacities of all kinds—none of these are new phenomena. And yet the grand narrative of nineteenth- and twentieth-century industrialization giving way to an unprecedented phase of post-capitalism obscures the ways in which early modern experiences may help to illuminate our own epoch. It was also during this period that financial capital dominated industrial capital; the protean forms that merchant capital took in its hunt for value elude the elegant formulations of classical political economy. During this period, the multiplicity of labor and property relationships did not map clearly onto political rights claims. Finally, and in contrast to the industrial period, in the early modern period problems of resource scarcity dominated economic thinking. By placing a temporary parenthesis around the economy of the Industrial Revolution and of its Fordist offshoots, this project will explore how the early modern economy may enrich our understanding of the hyper-capitalism of our present. In pursuing this goal, the research team will trace a new intellectual history of global capitalism by focusing on the ways in which ideas and debates about politics and the economy both reflected and shaped the development of capitalism since the seventeenth century the world over.
Image (left): A tea warehouse in Canton, c.1790. British Library/Science Photo Library.
Image (right): Warehouse distribution center for Amazon online retailers, December 5, 2014. Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images.
Illustration by Benjamin Ransom.
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