Lucerne Master Class for PhD Students, 2017
Histories of Global Capitalism - with Prof. Dr. Sven Beckert (Harvard University)
During the past few years, few topics have animated the chattering classes more than capitalism. In the wake of the global economic crisis, questions about the nature, past and viability of capital-ism suddenly appeared on evening talk shows and in newspapers throughout the world. The dis-cussion crossed most political boundaries, with conservative newspapers in England and Germa-ny running stories on the “future of capitalism” (as if in doubt that there was such a thing), while Korean Marxists and others hammered away at an analysis of capitalism’s allegedly self-destructive tendencies. The discussion continues with unabated intensity, crossing all political, ideological and professional divides: Pope Francis is making capitalism a central theme of his papacy, while a French economist, Thomas Piketty, attained rock star status by publishing Capital in the Twenty-First Century, an 800 page book full of tables and statistics.
Partly as a result of such contemporary debates, historians, ever attuned to the world in which they live, have rediscovered the study of the history of capitalism. In their work, they have insisted on the long-term trajectory of capitalism, have emphasized the great variety of capitalism both over time and in space, have focused on capitalism’s global connections, and, perhaps most insistent-ly, have emphasized the political, social and cultural embeddedness of economic change. Their work has created a powerful challenge to some of the naturalizing tenets that are frequently found in the discipline of economics.
In this Lucerne Master Class we will explore some of these discussions, and try to come to terms with what this new history of capitalism is all about. Students’ own work will be crucial to our dis-cussions, as are prominent texts from within what has become one of the most dynamic fields in modern historical research.