The Concept of the World Economy: Intellectual Histories

The Concept of the World Economy: Intellectual Histories

Quinn Slobodian, Wellesley College/Freie Universität Berlin; Dieter Plehwe Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB)
WZB Social Science Research Center, Raum A310, Reichpietschufer 50, 10785, Berlin
Vom - Bis
30.05.2014 - 31.05.2014
Quinn Slobodian

In the early 21st century, few would question the existence of a single world economy. The idea of an interdependent space linked by networks of trade, communication, migration and finance has taken on the indisputable power of the natural. Policy-makers and knowledge producers refer routinely to the pressures of the one world economy to justify domestic policy changes, including, most frequently, the dismantlement of the social state, the need for labor restraint, and the “structural adjustment” of production to meet global consumer demand. National borders are assumed to be semi-permeable membranes, capable of mitigating but never fully controlling, the effects of global economic exchange.

Despite its current status as self-evident, the concept of the one world economy has a history. This conference brings together scholars whose ongoing work contributes to a history of the idea of the single world economy and the processes by which it was made natural in science, policy and popular discourse. The time frame under study will extend from the second half of the nineteenth century when the idea was first discussed formally to the 1970s, a decade in which the idea of the one world economy assumed hegemonic status. The conference will work at the intersection of intellectual, political and economic history, suggesting that culturalist approaches can help illuminate the diverse pathways by which an idea can come to be seen as incontrovertible. For further information or registration, please contact Dr. Quinn Slobodian ( Space is limited so please register in advance if you plan to attend.

Generously funded by VolkswagenStiftung.


Friday, 30 May

Welcome and Introduction


Panel 1. The First Wave of Globalization


Julia Laura Rischbieter (Humboldt)

“The Problematic Nature of the Global Economy. The Invention of the Global Market as a Political Pseudo-Constraint on Economic Policy during the German Empire”

Catherine Davies (Freie Universität Berlin)

"'We are isolated, cut off from abroad...' Debating Financial Panics, Contagion, and Monetary Entanglement in a post-panic world, 1873-1880"

11:30-12:00. Coffee Break

Panel 2. Economic Knowledge after the Great War


Timothy Shenk (Columbia)

“From Money Economy to the Economy: The Case of the National Bureau of Economic Research"

Martin Bemmann (Freiburg)

“‘One World in Statistics’: Did the League of Nations' Survey of Global Economic Processes help to shape the Notion of a Single World Economy?”

13:15-14:30. Lunch

Panel 3. Competing World Visions in the 1930s


Quinn Slobodian (Wellesley/Freie Universität Berlin)

“The Empire of the World Economy: How Mises and Hayek’s Circle started with the Whole Earth”

Hagen Schulz-Forberg (Aarhus/WZB)

“One World for sure but which One?: Transnational Efforts at Norm-making for an Economic Order in the 1930s”

Panel 4. Geneva and the Periphery


James R. Martin (Harvard)

“A Thinking Machine for India: The League of Nations and the Invention of National Economies in Asia”

Jose Sanchez Roman (Complutense University of Madrid)

“Multilateralism or Americanization? Latin America, the US and the Fiscal Committee of the League of Nations”

17:00-18:00. Break

18:00-19:15. Keynote Lecture

Patricia Clavin (Oxford)

“Institutional Transformation and the World Economy: Ideas meet Practice”

19:15-20:00. Reception and Refreshments

Saturday, 31 May

Panel 5. Categories: Ocean, Space, Labor


Gopalan Balachandran (The Graduate Institute, Geneva)

"Atlantic Paradigms and Aberrant Histories: On World Economies Beyond Time and Place"

Andrew Zimmerman (George Washington)

"From Rural Insurgency to the World Economy: Hegel, Weber, Marx"

11:00-11:30. Coffee Break

Panel 6. Global Measurement in the Development Era


Malgorzata Mazurek (Columbia)

“Measuring Backwardness: Eastern European Concepts of World Economy and Weltstatistik (1900-1939)”

Daniel Speich Chassé (Lucerne)

“Global Economic Comparison post-1945. Quantification and Sociability in an Emergent World Polity”

Matthias Schmelzer (Geneva)

“Measuring Growth: The international Standardization of National Income Accounting”

Lunch and Coffee. 13:15-14:15

Panel 7. The Neoliberal Transformation of the World Economy?


David Kuchenbuch (Gießen)

“Globalism after the Fact? ‘One-World’-Ethics in the Federal Republic of Germany and America in the 1970s and 1980s”

Dieter Plehwe (WZB)

“From Embedded Liberalism to Cosmopolitan Capitalism: Herbert Giersch and the Radicalization of Neoliberal Economic Thought”


Quinn Slobodian

Dahlem Humanities Center - Freie Universität Berlin, Habelschwerdter Allee 45, 14195 Berlin
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