CfP: The Vulnerabilities of Capital: Conflicts over Class, Race and Sex in the History of American Capitalism

Call for papers, deadline May 19, 2023

In the past two decades, histories of American capitalism have been reconstructing the transformations of the U.S. economic and political order, focusing in particular on the late 18th and 19th centuries. This “new” history of capitalism has focused in particular on the centrality of slavery in U.S. economic development, on the role of the State in fostering growth and building markets, on the establishment of global networks of commodities exchange, as well as on the role of finance in accelerating accumulation. At the same time, while carefully depicting the emergence, affirmation and expansion of capitalism in the United States, this historiography has often failed to take into adequate account its many vulnerabilities due to the constant presence of subjects, particularly blacks, women and workers who refused to be dominated by its command, rejecting the violence, oppression and discrimination inherent in capitalist accumulation. In other words, this literature has often ignored the crucial role of social conflict, and of the subjects that animated it, in the history of American capitalism, which on the contrary should be seen as a constant and always precarious attempt to overcome its own vulnerabilities in front of blacks’, women’s and workers’ movements. This panel aims to overcome these historiographic shortcomings, by investigating the social relationships underpinning American capitalism and therefore by studying how conflicts around class, race and sex contributed to forge it institutionally and ideologically. More precisely, the goal is to deepen our understanding of how challenges against the sexual, racial and class hierarchies of American capitalism were crucial in shaping the U.S. economic and political order, as well as its strategies of ideological legitimation. To do so, the panel also aims to chronologically broaden the perspective on American capitalism by including contributions on the 20th century.

We welcome contributions from all disciplines and approaches, as well as critical discussions of recent historiography, but papers addressing the following questions are particularly welcome:
>how did blacks, women and workers collectively and individually contest the racial, sexual and class hierarchies imposed by American capitalism throughout U.S. history?
>how did social conflict and social movements contributed to shape the economic, political and juridical institutions of American capitalism?
>how did American capitalism attempt to overcome its own vulnerabilities in front of social conflict?
>how did the vulnerabilities of American capitalism affect its process of growth and expansion?
>how did economic and political thinkers reacted to the challenges posed to the capitalist order by social conflict and how did they attempted to legitimize it ideologically in the wake of such conflicts?
what was the role of the State in answering to social conflict and in institutionally shaping capitalist development throughout U.S. history?
>how did the historiography on American capitalism account for the role of blacks, women and workers in the history of American capitalism?


Please send your proposal to the panel coordinators by the new May 19th deadline with an abstract of up to 200 words and a short bio. By May 24th coordinators will communicate acceptance by mail and will proceed to publication on the conference website.

Panel coordinators: 

Matteo Rossi, University of Torino
Clemente Parisi, University of Bologna


The panel will be part of the 27th AISNA (Italian Association for North-American Studies) Biennial Conference, that will take place on September 21-23 at the University of Perugia in Narni (Italy).

Here you can find the call for papers of the whole conference: