This course explores the history of capitalism in a post-Industrial Revolution world, and is driven by two questions: how did we get from the textured political economy of the early eighteenth century to the disembodied market processes that we understand to be “the economy” today; and how does this changing body of economic thought reflect the dynamic world of industrial capitalism, empire, and global politics of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? Through a historically-minded engagement different texts in economic thought, both Western and otherwise, we chart the emergence of a discipline of economics – one that distinguished itself from classical political economy in its methodologies and concerns, and that was deeply embedded in the changing commercial and industrial world into which it was born. In doing so, we create a more textured narrative of how we ended up with what we understand to be “the economy” – both as a theoretical concept and a lived reality.
At the same time, we map the circulation of these new ideas – of political economy, of “economics”, and of imagined alternatives – around the globe. We examine how these ideas were given articulation through 19th- and 20th-century global empires and the modern corporation, bridging South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America into a singular, unified image of a global economy (although for purposes of depth, we will primarily focus on India and Egypt). We also explore how scholars, teachers, and jurists developed their own visions of the marketplace that sometimes complemented and other times actively confronted the global economy. At its core, the course is an opportunity for students to acquaint themselves with the history of modern capitalism around the world while actively engaging with classic texts in the history of Western and non-Western economic thought.