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.