Workshop Program

Friday, 9/23

8:30AM – Arrival, Light Breakfast

9:00AM – Welcome

9:10AM – The Politics of Planning and Modeling “the Economy” (Part 1)

  • Thomas Angeletti, “The Laboratory of the French Economy”
  • Verena Halsmayer, “The Economy as a System of Capital Flows: Assembling and Computing Input-Output Tables at the Harvard Economic Research Project”
  • Onur Ozgode, “The Construction of Systemic Risk as a Pathology of Monetary Government: How the Federal Reserve Came to Govern the Economy at the Limits of Neoliberalism”
  • Discussant: Sophus Reinert

11:05AM – The National and the International

  • Jamie Martin, “How Did Postwar Planners Think of the ‘World Economy?’ The Forgotten Efforts of 1940-1943”
  • Colin Danby, “Discovering Economies in British Africa “
  • Alden Young, “‘The Nation-State Alone Cannot Transform Its Destiny’”
  • Discussant: David Armitage

12:45PM – Lunch

2:00PM – Formalizations of the Economic

  • Yahya Madra, “Auction or Selection? Two Competing (Neoclassical) Metaphors for ‘The Economy’”
  • Philippe Steiner, “Economy as Matching”
  • Till Düppe, “Economic Consciousness: Four Historical Considerations”
  • Rachel Knecht, “‘All Arithmetic Should Be Practical’: Calculating Rationality in Antebellum America”
  • Discussant: Christine Desan

4:00PM – Break

4:15PM – The Economic, Incentives, Rationality

  • Justin Douglas, Bretton Fosbrook, & Kira Lussier, “The Art of Corporate Governing in the Postwar Period”
  • Daniel Breslau, “Household Marketization and the End of the Economy”
  • Guus Dix, “Incentivizable Man: The Emergence of Incentivization as a New Modality of Power, 1886–1920 (and Beyond)”
  • Martha Lampland, “Monetary Imaginaries in Inflationary Times”
  • Discussant: Laura Sawyer


Saturday, 9/24

8:30AM – Arrival, Light Breakfast

9:00AM – The Politics of Planning and Modeling “the Economy” (Part 2)

  • Nikhil Menon, “Knowing Through Numbers: Planning, Statistics, and Defining the Indian Economy”
  • Adam Leeds, “On the Socialist Origins of the Capitalist ‘Economy’”
  • Dan Hirschman, “Managing the Economy in Real Time”
  • Discussant: Timothy Mitchell

10:55AM – Formatting National Economic Space

  • Hannah Appel, “Toward an Ethnography of ‘the Economy’”
  • Tripp Rebrovick, “‘The Market is Not The Economy’: Regimes of Sight and the Constitution of Economic Knowledge”
  • Margaret Schabas,”Concepts of the Economy in Eighteenth-Century French and British Economic Thought”
  • Discussant: Quinn Slobodian

12:40PM – Presentation by Thomas Vass of the INET Young Scholars Initiative

12:50PM – Lunch

2:00PM – The Public Life of “The Economy”

  • Allegra Giovine, “Fantasies and Fallacies of Fortune: Visions of Burma’s Colonial Economy c.1900-1937”
  • Melissa Teixeira, “The Popular and the Political Economy: The Case of Brazil’s Estado Novo (1937-1945)”
  • Tim Shenk, “The Political Origins of the American Economy”
  • Soo-Young Kim, “Of Pensions and Projections: How the Future Constitutes the Economy in Greece”
  • Discussant: Samuel Moyn

4:00PM – Break

4:15PM – The Economical and the Natural

  • Chris Jones, “The Disappearing Natural World: Genealogies of Economics, Growth, and Abstraction”
  • Alyssa Battistoni, “The Economy of Nature: Whole Earth Economics and the Disappearance of the Outside”
  • Richard Lane, “Finding the Absolute Reason for Growth: How the 1952 Paley Commission Conceptualised Scarcity and Reframed the Growth of the Economy”
  • Discussant: Lukas Rieppel


This workshop could not have taken place without the generous support of the following programs:

  • History of Economics Society’s New Initiatives program
  • The Institute for New Economic Thinking’s Young Scholars Initiative
  • The Harvard Institute for Global Law and Policy
  • The Harvard Program on the Study of Capitalism
  • The Harvard Law School Legal History Workshop

Thanks are due to the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies for administrative support. Thanks Bruce and Kathleen!


Call For Submissions

Historicizing “The Economy”
September 23–24, Harvard University
Abstract submissions due May 1st

MONIAC public domain

This two day workshop aims to bring together scholars working on the emergence and the history of different conceptions of the “economic” and the “economy” as objects of economic thought and political practice. Both academics and the lay public have tended to project present day economic concepts back into history. But the now unavoidable intuition of there being a special sphere, realm, or aspect of social reality that could be characterized as “economic” or an object called “the economy” is a historically recent one. Over the past two decades, interest in the genealogies of these concepts and their imbrication in modes of government has grown, yet scholars working on this issue have not gathered to discuss the different chronologies and competing narratives that have been proposed. The planned two-day workshop will provide a venue for this discussion, with the aim of continuing collaboration and eventual group publication.

The origins of the economic are receiving heightened interdisciplinary attention right now due to the position of this problem at the confluence of three literatures. First, the 1990s saw a wave of new histories of statistics, accounting, and econometrics – knowledges inseparable from the conceptualization of the economy. Second, there is a burgeoning new literature from the sociology of finance on “the performativity of economics.” Third, there is growing interdisciplinary recognition of the importance of Michel Foucault’s recently published lectures at the Collège de France on governmentality, which include readings of physiocracy, Adam Smith, Ordoliberalism, and the Chicago School. Finally, Timothy Mitchell and others have begun to examine the construction of the economy as a part material, part conceptual assemblage, paying particular attention to vital infrastructure systems such as energy and money. For all of these reasons, the time is ripe to concentrate attention on this thematic, consolidate it, and establish a landmark body of work about it.

Existing research has tentatively and contentiously established two historical semantic thresholds: one at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries, and a second at the beginning of the twentieth century. But papers are welcome that treat the theme in any time period, earlier or later. Submissions are especially encouraged from early career scholars, and those working in non-North Atlantic contexts.

The workshop is being organized by Daniel Hirschman (University of Michigan/Brown University), Adam Leeds (Harvard University/Columbia University) and Onur Özgöde (Harvard University). Please submit abstracts of a maximum of 500 words are to all three organizers (,, by May 1st.

This project is supported by the New Horizons Initiative of the History of Economics Society and the Harvard Institute for Global Law and Policy. Limited funding will be available to offset travel and lodging costs. Limited space will be available for non-participant attendees. More detailed information will be available in May.