The History Programme of the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften
Subject of 2015/16: »Varieties of Capitalism - the Atlantic World and Asia«
During the academic year 2015/2016 the Goethe-University Frankfurt’s Historisches Kolleg invites researchers from all over the world for new reflection and discussion on »Varieties of Capitalism – the Atlantic World and Asia« to the city of Bad Homburg.
The emergence and spreading of occidental capitalism from the Netherlands and Great Britain all over Europe and later the entire world is a historical phenomenon of extraordinary range. Ever since, it has attracted the interest of economists, sociologists and historians. However, for a long period of time their attention focused mainly on Europe. Only recently, the focus of research has shifted to other regions of the world, too. As a result, the dramatic divergence of productivity since 1800 between the political economies of the Atlantic world on the one hand and the Asian world on the other can be examined and described as a global historical process of the rise and relative decline of nations, transnational regions and their respective cultures. Nevertheless, the detailed causes of this »Great Divergence« are still controversial. The very same applies to the question, whether this divergence has not rather turned into a »Great Convergence« of the different varieties of global capitalism by the beginning of the 21st century. Seemingly, their diversity was especially rich throughout the 20th century, the era of political extremes.
In June 2015, starting with a public lecture given by the social historian Jürgen Kocka (Berlin) on general problems of a comparative history of modern capitalism, an intensive seminar for students as well as advanced researchers held by the organizer Werner Plumpe together with Jürgen Kocka, the economic historian Peer Vries (Wien) and the political scientist Tobias ten Brink (Frankfurt am Main) will try to develop a new perspective on the long-term evolution of different varieties of global capitalism in the Atlantic world and Asia, especially in China, from the early 19th throughout the early 21st century.
At the same time, this seminar will be the starting point for a critical reevaluation of all the basic structural features of modern capitalism that were defined by prior research and are widely accepted. Nevertheless, by reconsidering, the question occurs whether these features are still applicable to the development of the specific varieties of capitalism in the different regions of the Atlantic world and Asia. The intensive seminar itself will put the focus on two of the most important features of capitalism: first, on individual property rights and private enterprises; second, on profit orientation of economic players and price formatting markets. What was the actual relevance for the emergence and evolution of capitalism in Europe, the Americas and Asia? A series of interdisciplinary workshops will follow that shall examine other basic structural features of capitalism: How significant was the often cited ‘free wage labor’ in historic reality? How were employment relationships and social security systems designed by politics? Which role did private consumption play – a factor that has received far less attention than the production sphere by research? Did the significance of technology and sciences grow in course of the centuries? Which functions are to be attributed to money, credit, and which actual role did – politically designed or liberalized – capital markets play for the emergence and development of the different varieties of capitalism? Finally, do the answers to all of these questions call for a fundamental redefinition of the structural features of modern capitalism? Is it possible to identify and describe specific regional patterns of a long-term »co-evolution« of ideas, institutions and practices that contributed to the emergence and evolution of capitalism in the Atlantic and Asian world up to present times?
Taking into account the current and political relevance of this topic, a conclusive conference will investigate the social inequalities, intrinsic conflicts, as well as the – due to reoccurring and profound crises quite surprising – broad social acceptance of capitalism. Together with renowned researchers the vices as well as the virtues and prospective chances of contemporary global capitalism shall be highlighted. In the course of this, examining the Chinese advancement will certainly play a major role on the agenda again, as nowadays China – for the very first time in its history – seems to be willing to fully integrate into the global economy. But of course, this has not to lead into a supposed »Great Convergence«. Instead, the rise of China could come along with the relative decline of the Atlantic region and the emergence of a new Chinese-American economic area marked by mutual dependencies, which Niall Ferguson called – yet vaguely and dazzlingly – »Chimerica«. However, what does this mean for Europe?
For an overview of all events of the History Programme see here.
Jürgen Kocka: »Probleme einer vergleichenden Geschichte des modernen Kapitalismus«, Vortrag vom 25.06.2015.
Den Bericht zum Vortrag finden Sie hier.
Andreas Eckert: »Kapitalismus auf dem vergessenen Kontinent: Die ›große Divergenz‹ seit 1800 und der Wandel von Arbeitsformen in Afrika«, Vortrag vom 26.10.2015.
Den Bericht zum Vortrag finden Sie hier.
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