2017 Fall Conference

Hidden Capitalism: Beyond, Below, and Outside the Visible Market header image

2017 Fall Conference

Hidden Capitalism: Beyond, Below, and Outside the Visible Market
Friday, November 10, 2017

Hagley Library, 298 Buck Road, Wilmington, DE

In reviving the study of capitalism, scholars have emphasized the transformative power of markets and commodification. Yet, a crucial part of what drives capitalism falls outside of waged relations and formal, visible exchange. 

This conference explored the substantial economic activity that occurs on the margins and in the concealed corners of the formal economy. These activities may be hidden or take place in “markets” that are not defined or measured by the normal terms we use to define and measure markets. Uncovering these forgotten or obscured activities can focus new attention on the mutual dependency of the visible and invisible markets and how the moralities of such markets both converge and diverge.

The conference was initiated by Lisa Jacobson and Ken Lipartito, and they are joined on the program committee by Roger Horowitz (Hagley Museum and Library) and Wendy Woloson (Rutgers University).  It was held in the Copeland Room at Hagley Library.

PDF Schedule

Conference Details

Call for Proposals

In reviving the study of capitalism, scholars have emphasized the transformative power of markets and commodification. Yet, a crucial part of what drives capitalism falls outside of waged relations and formal, visible exchange. 

For a conference sponsored by the Center for the History of Business, Technology, and Society on November 10, 2017, we invite proposals that explore the substantial economic activity that occurs on the margins and in the concealed corners of the formal economy. These activities may be hidden or take place in “markets” that are not defined or measured by the normal terms we use to define and measure markets. Uncovering these forgotten or obscured activities can focus new attention on the mutual dependency of the visible and invisible markets and how the moralities of such markets both converge and diverge.

We are interested in original, unpublished empirical essays addressing the long twentieth century (1890 to the present) and that consider one or more of the following questions:

  • How does the expansive twentieth-century regulatory state impact the relationship between public and hidden or extra-market economic activity?
  • As more and more of life is exposed to the surveillance of the market and state regulation, does capitalism breed a demand for methods that conceal and obscure economic activity (e.g. tax havens, shadow banking, and offshoring)?  How in turn does the state work to bring such hidden activities to light?
  • To what extent does capitalism continue to depend on the hidden and uncompensated labor of reproduction and family maintenance, typically performed by women?  How has the gendering of traditionally non-monetized activities influenced how we have subsequently monetized such services (e.g. elder care, child care, bartering of domestic services among friends and neighbors)? 
  • How should we conceptualize the differences between legal activity and illegal activity, and semi-legal gray market activity (e.g. smuggling, fraud, the dark web, and trade in vices, body parts, and adopted children)?  How and to what extent are illicit and licit markets interconnected?
  • How and to what extent does the freely-given creativity of actors working deliberately under the radar of the market (e.g. peer sharing, open source innovation) alternately advance business innovation and undermine established markets and modes of capital accumulation?
  • In what ways does the visible market depend on invisible ones for its legitimacy and success?  Does the hidden economy buoy capitalism, or destabilize it, or both?
  • How do understandings of risk and the nature of rewards for both the public and hidden economic activities interact and influence one another? What can be concluded about the connection between risk and reward in these contexts?
  • How and to what extent do non-market forms of economic activity openly reject the moral imperatives of capitalism in the interest of distributive justice (e.g. dumpster diving, minimalist living, reuse of used goods)?

 

Schedule

PDF Schedule

November 10, 2017

8:30 am – 10:45 am: Panel 1, Business in the shadows

Bruce Baker, Newcastle University
The Loose Cotton Economy of the New Orleans Waterfront in the Late Nineteenth Century

Hannah Frydman, Rutgers University
Capitalism's Back Pages:  "Immoral"Advertising and Invisible Markets in Paris's Mass Press, 1890-1939

Bevery Bunch-Lyons, Virginia Tech
"Disdainful of Order and Decency" or "Making My Ends Meet the Only Way I Could": Blacks and the Underground Liquor Economy in North Carolina, 1900-1960

Jennifer Ayres, New York University
Reselling Clothes on Instagram: Exploring the Relationship Between New Social Media and the Old Informal Economy

Commentator: Wendy Woloson, Rutgers University-Camden

10:45 am – 11:15 am: Coffee break

11:15 am – 12:30 pm: Panel 2, Liminal spaces and global order

Vanessa Ogle, University of California, Berkeley
Legalizing the Offshore World

Dara Orenstein, George Washington University
Hidden in Plain View:  A Visual History of Foreign-Trade Zones

Commentator: Ken Lipartito, Florida International University

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm: Lunch

1:30 pm – 3:15 pm: Panel 3, Capitalisms in collision 

Owen James Hyman, Mississippi State University
Jim Crow's Cut: White Supremacy and the Destruction of Black Capital in the Forests of the  Deep South

Bryan Turo, Independent Scholar
From Continental Crossroad to Dead End: Market Rationalization and Community Marginalization in the Hispano Borderlands, 1890-1929

Ishani Saraf, University of California, Davis
Partial Legalities and Susceptibility to Interventions:  Commerce and Regulation in a Metal Scrap Market in Delhi

Commentator: Lisa Jacobson, University of California, Santa Barbara

3:15 pm – 3:45 pm: Coffee break

3:45 pm – 5:30 pm: Panel 4, Regulating alternative markets

Kenneth Mouré, University of Alberta
Capitalism's Black Heart in Wartime France

Philip Scranton, Rutgers University
Testing the Capitalist Road in Communist China:  From Market Initiatives to the Cultural Revolution, 1955-1966

Jessica Bird, Temple University
From Dapper Dan to "Kute" Spade: Regulating Knockoffs and Bootlegs in New York City's Apparel Industry

Commentator: Marc Flandreau, University of Pennsylvania

5:30: Reception

 

Registration and Lodging

Advance registration is free but required. To sign up to attend the conference, please contact Carol Lockman, clockman@Hagley.org  or 302-658-2400, x243.

A link to all of the conference papers will be made available to those who have registered. 

Lunch is available onsite for advance payment of $15.

For those staying overnight, we recommend the Best Western Brandywine Valley Inn. There is a block of rooms available for attendees and shuttle service during the conference is provided. Call (800) 537-7772 for reservations and indicate that you are attending Hagley's fall conference to receive the discounted rate.