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The American Developmental State: The Origins of American Capitalism in Comparative Perspective

25 may 2023 10:00 - 26 may 2023 17:30
Day 1 : IEA de Paris
17 quai d'Anjou
75004 Paris

Day 2 : American University of Paris
6, rue Colonel Combes
75007 Paris

Conference organized by Noam Maggor (Queen Mary University of London, 2022-2023 Paris IAS Fellow), Sofia Valeonti (American University of Paris), Nicolas Barreyre (EHESS), and Ariel Ron (Southern Methodist University).

With support from the Paris Institute for Advanced Study, the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (and the Mondes Américains), the Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle University, the American University of Paris (and the Center for Critical Democracy Studies), the Mellon Fund at Cambridge University, the Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne University (and the research center Phare), and Southern Methodist University.

Conference in person.
Registration upon request to Noam Maggor : n.maggor@qmul.ac.uk
! Please note there is a special registration form for the roundtable on May 25 at 5:30 pm here: https://www.paris-iea.fr/en/events/au-dela-du-neoliberalisme-repenser-le-role-de-l-etat-a-l-ere-de-la-mondialisation-2

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How can we best account for the historical trajectory of American capitalism over the “long” nineteenth century? With this conference we aim to deploy the idea of an “American developmental state” as a lens for investigating the formative years of US capitalism. Now is an opportune moment to reconsider the role of government in US economic history. Policymakers in Washington and elsewhere are launching bold new experiments with industrial policy. The tenets of the “Washington Consensus” are fast falling out of favor politically and ideologically. Scholars and journalists are observing the decline of “neoliberal globalization” and a “homecoming” of supply chains. Activists, workers, and citizens are clamoring for greater government involvement in securing a sustainable and fair future. Historians are well positioned to contribute to this conversation, which has been hampered by incomplete understanding of how American institutions first emerged and formed.

The discussion among historians of the United States is similarly ripe for this line of inquiry. Americanists have spent much of the last two decades debunking the myth of the “weak” American state. Long viewed as feeble or altogether absent prior to the mid-twentieth century, the new consensus is that the American state has always been ‘powerful, capacious, tenacious, interventionist, and redistributive’ (William Novak). At the same time, historians of American slavery and indigenous dispossession have shown that state-backed violence is essential to understanding the country’s economic trajectory. Whether these facets of US history all cohere in a single developmental project or whether they evidence multiple, competing developmental visions, is one question we propose to engage. More broadly, we wish to ask how state power was oriented toward shaping and governing economic life.

Crucially, the developmental-state framework positions the US in a comparative light, bringing renewed focus to a very fundamental set of issues: What made the US like or unlike other young settler societies around the globe, and, more generally, other industrializing nations? How could we best characterize the relationships between state and private actors in the US, on the federal level and on the level of the states? What have been the social alignments, coalitions, and confrontations that shaped and reshaped American institutions over time? How is it that the US—long associated with liberal markets—inspired figures such as Alexander Hamilton and Friedrich List to theorize key developmental approaches and policies? Given the privileged place of the US as a model for policy formation around the world, the implications of this research agenda could be profound, destabilizing longstanding assumptions across the social sciences – in economics, political science, and comparative political economy – about the sources and standards of economic “success.”


Thursday, May 25, at the Institut d’Études Avancées de Paris

9:30-9:45: Coffee

10:00-10:30: Introduction

10:30-12:00: Infrastructure

Chair: Ariel Ron

  • Sveinn M. Jóhannesson (University of Iceland)
    “Engineering the Antebellum Transportation Revolution”
  • Susan Pearson (Northwestern University)
    “Human Bookkeeping: Vital Registration and Political Economy in the United States”
  • Benjamin Kodres-O’Brien (Columbia University)
    “Network Federalism, Electric Power, and US Industrial Production Before 1917”
    Commentator: Martin Giraudeau (Sciences Po)

12:00-1:00: lunch

1:00-2:30: Banking and Money

Chair: Sofia Valeonti

  • Jonah Estess (American University)
    “By the General Consent of Mankind’: State Courts, Bank Notes, and the Paradox of Private Monetary Sovereignty in the Antebellum United States”
  • Mikael Omstedt (Uppsala University)
    “A Country of Long Credits and Long Seasons’: The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the Asynchronies of Agrarian Capitalism”
  • Manuel Bautista-Gonzalez (Oxford University)
    “New Orleans, the ‘Natural Depot’ for Mexican Specie (1821-1861)”
    Commentator: Goulven Rubin (Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)

2:30-3:00: break

3:00-4:30: Thinking the US Development State

Chair: Nicolas Barreyre

  • Matteo Rossi (Turin)
    “The ‘Interfering Social Power’: Daniel Raymond, Friedrich List and the Political Economy of the American Developmental State”
  • Ariel Ron (SMU) & Sofia Valeonti (AUP)
    “Central Monetary Services without Centralization in Stephen Colwell’s The Ways and Means of Payment
  • Maria Bach (University of Lausanne)
    “Emancipatory National Accounting: Evidence from India and America, 1850-1870”
    Commentator: Elisa Grandi (Université Paris Cité)

4:30-5:30: break

5:30-7:00: Keynote roundtable "Beyond Neoliberalism: Rethinking the Role of the State in a New Global Age"

Chair: Noam Maggor

  • Gary Gerstle (Cambridge Univers)
  • Thomas Piketty (EHESS)
  • Felicia Wong (Roosevelt Institute)

(! please note there is a dedicated registration form for this roundtable following this link: https://www.paris-iea.fr/en/events/au-dela-du-neoliberalisme-repenser-le-role-de-l-etat-a-l-ere-de-la-mondialisation-2!)

Friday, May 26, at the American University of Paris

9:30-9:4: Coffee

9:45-11h15: Corporations

Chair: Ariel Ron

  • Brian Murphy (Rutgers University)
    “Great Falls: Water, Power, and Federalism in Early America”
  • Alexia Blin (Paris 3 University)
    “The State and ‘the Good Association of Producers Against the Bad Combination of Capitalists’: The 1913 Wisconsin Market Commission.”
  • Sarah Haan (Washington and Lee University)
    “Voting Rights in Corporate Governance: History and Political Economy”
    Commentator: Claire Lemercier (CNRS)

11:15-11:30: break

11:30-1:00: Development and Power Hierarchies

Chair: Sofia Valeonti

  • Dael Norwood (University of Delaware)
    “Organizing Businessmen for Civic Ends: ‘Commercial Secretaries’ and the Elaboration of Infrastructural Power at the Municipal Level in the American Developmental State”
  • Keri Leigh Merritt
    “Southern Exceptionalism: Infrastructure, Development, and Power”
  • Brian Schoen (Ohio University)
    “Hercules out of the Cradle: Slavery, Empire, and the Fracturing of the American Developmental State”
    Commentator: Nicolas Delalande (Sciences Po)

1:00-2:00: lunch

2:00-3:30: Land

Chair: Nicolas Barreyre

  • Robert Lee (Cambridge University)
    “Indigenous Land, Sovereign Wealth, and the Paradox of Plenty in Antebellum Connecticut”
  • Richard John (Columbia University)
    “Land Monopoly and Economic Development in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France”
  • Elsbeth Heaman (McGill University)
    “The Development State as Canadian Paradigm?”
    Commentator: Andrea Rosengarten (AUP)

3:30-3-45: break

3:45-5:30: Was there an American Developmental State?

Chair: Eli Cook (Haifa University)

  • Nils Gilman (Berggruen Institute)
  • Anton Jäger (KU Leuven)
  • Alexander Keyssar (Harvard Kennedy School of Government)
  • Gautham Rao (American University)
  • Dina Waked (Sciences Po)

Practical information

Conference in person.
Registration on request to Noam Maggor : n.maggor@qmul.ac.uk
Please note that the round table on May 25 at 5:30 pm is open to the public upon registration here:https://www.paris-iea.fr/en/events/au-dela-du-neoliberalisme-repenser-le-role-de-l-etat-a-l-ere-de-la-mondialisation-2

The Great American Leap Forward: Yankee Leviathan and the Making of Modern Capitalism
01 September 2022 - 30 June 2023
26 May 2023 17:30
Noam Maggor
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