How often do you stop and wonder how paper money and checking accounts became a part of our daily life? Can you pinpoint the moment in time when investing in the stock market became an activity available to ordinary citizens? How and why did the United States government become involved in funding railroads, paved roads, and other infrastructural projects? Each of these transformations of the flow of money reflect a form of historical analysis that centers capitalism as a lens through which histories can be told and understood. The field of History of Capitalism has been around since the 19th century, but it has achieved exponential growth in academia since the financial crisis of 2008. Despite the pervasiveness of capitalism in modern history and our contemporary lives, the language of its history is often technical and inaccessible, even for many professional students of history.
Through a podcast titled “Who Makes Cents?,” Princeton University member of the Institute for Advanced Study Betsy Beasley and University of California-Los Angeles Lecturer David Stein seek to make these histories more accessible to public and academic audiences who are not trained in the vocabularies of Marxism or other economic-historical methodologies. Most of the podcasts feature interviews with scholars and cultural critics who speak about particular moments in the history of capitalism. Some of the topics include the “politics of chicken,” the radical right, intersections of ecological and economic inequality, insurance companies and healthcare in the United States, and sexuality in the workplace. The project is currently supported by the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California and the Public Humanities Program at Yale University.
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