Past Event

Conference: New (and Old) Directions in Historical Political Economy

April 25, 2024
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
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The Lehman Center, 406 A-C, International Affairs Building (420 W. 118th St.)

New (and Old) Directions in Historical Political Economy

The global energy transition, Covid-era supply shocks, revival of “industrial policy” in the United States (and its European responses), and increasing concerns over “deglobalization” and thereby the fate of American financial, trade, and technological hegemony have aroused renewed public interest in central questions of political economy and its historical instantiations. Scholars have grappled with these developments as well, offering new work analyzing these seemingly unprecedented trends through the use of both new (and older) academic approaches–specifically engaging with questions concerning the relationship between capitalism and the history of energy and extraction, the character of global mass production and its antecedents (or lack thereof), the political economy of geostrategic blocs, governance of the corporation domestically and internationally, and the changing nature of global inequality.

The purpose of this conference is to engage critically with new (and old) directions in political economy in light of these pressing issues. Co-hosted between the Columbia History Department and School of Journalism, the conference furthermore aims to foster an open dialogue among a range of thinkers, inside and outside of the academy, around the political stakes and economic consequences of four primary topics: the fate of neoliberalism and the liberal tradition; trade, labor, and supply chains; anti-monopoly and state intervention into big business; and the global energy transition.

Central questions anchoring the conference are:

1.     Are there historical precedents for the challenges we currently face in the US and globally? What are the possibilities and limitations inherent to thinking about our present through the past?

2.     Why might it be important to develop new approaches in historical political economy rather than revisit older models? And how can past approaches inform new ones?

3.     Is there a role for the academic and social scientist in this new policy environment? If so, what does this role realistically look like?

4.     How can we sufficiently bridge the gap between the academy, journalism, practice, and policy-making?



Introductory Remarks (9:00 am)

Panel 1: Liberalism and Neoliberalism (9:15 am)

Jay Pan (Columbia University, Department of History)

Whitney McIntosh (Columbia University, Department of History)

Seokju Oh (Columbia University, Department of History)

Discussant: Clara Mattei (The New School for Social Research, Economics)

Coffee Break (10:45 am – 15 minutes)

Roundtable 1: Antimonopoly and Antitrust (11:00 am)

Marshall Steinbaum (University of Utah, Department of Economics)

Laura Phillips-Sawyer (University of Georgia School of Law)

Willie Burden (International Brotherhood of Teamsters)

Moderator: Richard John (Columbia School of Journalism, Communications)

Lunch (12:30-1:30 pm)

Panel 2: Technology, Labor, and Trade (1:30 pm)

Neil Johnson, (UC Santa Barbara, Department of History)

Spencer Tompkins (Fordham University, History Department)

Ella Coon (Columbia University, Department of History)

Discussant: Lee Vinsel (Virginia Tech, Department of Science, Technology and Society)

Coffee Break (3:00 pm – 30 minutes)

Roundtable 2: Energy and the State (3:30 pm)

Adam Tooze (Columbia University, Department of History)

Meg Jacobs (Princeton University, Department of History)

Tim Sahay (Johns Hopkins University, Net Zero Industrial Policy Lab)

Moderator: Ben Kodres-O’Brien (Columbia School of Journalism, Communications)

Closing Remarks (5:00 pm)