Graduate Student Conference at Harvard University, October 26-28, 2006
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printer-friendly format Panels, Participants, & Papers -- History of Capitalism in North America

Panels, Participants, and Papers

· Beyond Individualism: Capital, Community, and Entrepreneurship
· Reform and the Anti-Capitalist Impulse in American Social Thought
· The Politics of Business / The Business of Politics
· The Politics of Property: Capitalism, Space, and Social Order
· The Margins of the Market: Law and Legitimacy in American Capitalism

Click on the paper title to see the abstract, and on the author's name for biographical information.


Beyond Individualism: Capital, Community, and Entrepreneurship

Tensions between communitarian and individualistic impulses have shaped the history of American capitalism, as Americans across community lines have debated the relationship between private economic activity and the public good. This panel seeks to illuminate these debates by exploring the ways in which economic life was experienced by members of particular communities. The historians in this panel hope to describe economic culture in complex ways by exploring intra- and cross-community disputes concerning values, practices, and beliefs about work, business, and consumption.

Presiding: Rachel St. John, Harvard University
Comment: Richard R. John, University of Illinois at Chicago

Shennette Garrett, University of Texas, Austin
“Your Destiny Is Our Destiny”: Whites, the National Negro Business League, and the Golden Age of Black Business in the South, 1900-1930

Trinidad Gonzales, University of Houston
Everyday Capitalistic Practices of Ethnic Mexicans from the Lower Rio Grande Valley During the Last Phase of United States Colonization, 1900-1914

Miriam Posner, Yale University
Making Way for the Chain: The Struggle Over Grocery Chains, 1925-1935


Reform and the Anti-Capitalist Impulse in American Social Thought

Throughout the history of the United States, intellectuals across the ideological spectrum have argued that America’s commitment to industrial capitalism threatened to undermine the American project itself. This panel examines a wide variety of intellectuals and reformers whose questioning of the role of capital in American society led them to surprising conclusions about the nature of American capitalism and its prospects for the future. In particular, the historians on this panel are eager to rethink the origins and meanings of reformist ideologies and the ways in which the desire to transcend or abandon capitalism have shaped American culture.

Presiding: Jeffrey Sklansky, Oregon State University
Comment: Michael Zakim, Tel Aviv University

Michael H. Carriere, University of Chicago
“Let the Machines Do It”: The American Left, the 1960s, and the Promise of Technology

David Huyssen, Yale University
Henry Walcott Farnam and the Language of Patrician Reform

Paddy Riley, University of California, Berkeley
Slavery and Wage-Slavery: The Development of a Suspect Comparison

Tamara Venit, Stanford University
Outcasts in Heaven Itself: A New Look at Henry George’s Antimonopolism and Exclusionism


The Politics of Business / The Business of Politics

This panel will address business and industry as a political force through an exploration of business’s interactions with the state. By examining corporations and business organizations as political actors in specific historical contexts, our panelists hope to complicate ideas about the political interests of business and business leaders and the nature of business’s relationship to the political process.

Presiding: Julian Zelizer, Boston University
Comment: Jennifer Klein, Yale University

Louis Hyman, Harvard University
How Commercial Bankers Discovered Consumer Credit: The FHA and Personal Loan Departments, 1934-1938

David Sellers Smith, Northwestern University
A Politics for Professional Capitalists: Credit Men and the Origins of Interest Group Politics, 1880-1914

Sarah Vogel, Columbia University
“Politics, Not Pollution”: The Crises of the 1970s and the Coming of the Plastics Age


The Politics of Property: Capitalism, Space, and Social Order

This panel will examine how disputes concerning property and investment shape the social and economic organization of communities. Through conflicts to define the nature of property, the prerogatives of property-holders, and the use of urban space, these papers emphasize the political basis of transformations in the built environment.

Presiding: Lizabeth Cohen, Harvard University
Comment: Walter Johnson, Harvard University

Andrea Gill, University of California, Santa Barbara
“The Realtors’ Amendment”: The California Real Estate Association, Planned Segregation, and the Passage of Proposition 14

Andrew Heath, University of Pennsylvania
Capitalism, Empire, and Urbanism in Antebellum Philadelphia

Eleanor H. McConnell, University of Iowa
The Specter of Waste: Property and Economic Opportunity in Revolutionary New Jersey, 1760-1820


The Margins of the Market: Law and Legitimacy in American Capitalism

It is impossible to understand the history of American capitalism without recognizing the fundamental importance of the American legal system. The historians in this panel explore the relationship between law and capitalism in the United States by examining how the state monitors, controls, and legitimizes economic activity and economic actors. The historical cases addressed by these papers allow us to examine the economic and legal tensions that accompanied the expansion of the American state both across the North American continent and around the world.

Presiding: Christine Desan, Harvard Law School
Comment: Morton Horwitz, Harvard Law School

Jane G. Haigh, University of Arizona
Bunco Sharks and the Big Store: Understanding Capitalism Through Gilded Age Fraud and Corruption

Robert McGreevey, Brandeis University
Aliens, Nationals and Citizens: Puerto Ricans at the Margins of the American Nation, 1900-1919

Gautham Rao, University of Chicago
Policing the National Marketplace: Customhouses and the Law of Smuggling in Antebellum America


Last updated: September 1, 2009
History of Capitalism in North America
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