'Tis the new sexy discipline in the history department. Who knew? ;) * or, perhaps, I am jaded in these matters, as this is what el V and I have been doing all along, and certainly are centering in The American Slave Coast. It's what historians do. You cannot do history of anything -- even or perhaps particularly, a history of fans, for instance, without it being informed by economics and finance -- which means, first of all, statistics.
It never ceases to amaze how journalists condescend to intellectuals and scholars and artists ....
April 6, 2013
In History Departments, It’s Up With Capitalism
By JENNIFER SCHUESSLER
A specter is haunting university history departments: the specter of capitalism:
The camp, he explained, is aimed at getting relatively innumerate historians up to speed on the kinds of financial data and documents found in business archives. Understanding capitalism, Dr. Hyman said, requires “both Foucault and regressions.”
It also, scholars insist, requires keeping race and gender in the picture.
As examples, they point to books like Nathan Connolly’s “World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida,” coming next year, and Bethany Moreton’s “To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise” (Harvard, 2009), winner of multiple prizes, which examines the role of evangelical Christian values in mobilizing the company’s largely female work force.
The history of capitalism has also benefited from a surge of new, economically minded scholarship on slavery, with scholars increasingly arguing that Northern factories and Southern plantations were not opposing economic systems, as the old narrative has it, but deeply entwined.
And that entwining, some argue, involved people far beyond the plantations and factories themselves, thanks to financial shenanigans that resonate in our own time.
In a paper called “Toxic Debt, Liar Loans and Securitized Human Beings: The Panic of 1837 and the Fate of Slavery,” Edward Baptist, a historian at Cornell, looked at the way small investors across America and Europe snapped up exotic financial instruments based on slave holdings, much as people over the past decade went wild for mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations — with a similarly disastrous outcome.
Other scholars track companies and commodities across national borders. Dr. Beckert’s “Empire of Cotton,” to be published by Alfred A. Knopf, traces the rise of global capitalism over the past 350 years through one crop. Nan Enstad’s book in progress, “The Jim Crow Cigarette: Following Tobacco Road From North Carolina to China and Back,” examines how Southern tobacco workers, and Southern racial ideology, helped build the Chinese cigarette industry in the early 20th century.
Whether scrutiny of the history of capitalism represents a genuine paradigm shift or a case of scholarly tulip mania, one thing is clear.
“The worse things are for the economy,” Dr. Beckert said wryly, “the better they are for the discipline.”
*It seems the writer of this article is entirely ignorant of the pure capitalist practice that is our successful institutions of higher learning, though how anyone writing for the NY Times in particular, which rootytoots the constant NYU real estate gobble and capitalist expansion for the benefit of the scions of the overseas' obscenely bloated wealthy, could be ignorant of this, is impossible to comprehend.