Who Makes Cents?: A History of Capitalism Podcast is a monthly program devoted to bringing you quality, engaging stories that explain how capitalism has changed over time. We interview historians and social and cultural critics about capitalism’s past, highlighting the political and economic changes that have created the present. Each episode gives voice to the people who have shaped capitalism – by making the rules or by breaking them, by creating economic structures or by resisting them.
Special Episode on the Military and the Market
46:20This month, we welcomed Jennifer Mittelstadt back to the show, joined by Mark Wilson, to discuss their new edited volume, The Military and the Market. Moving beyond familiar topics like defense spending, the volume takes an expansive approach to examining military-market relations in a wide range of contexts--from family business in the Civil War to managing post-World War II housing construction for U.S. soldiers and their families, and much more. Alongside Jennifer and Mark, listeners will hear from Kara Dixon Vuic, whose chapter explores the U.S. military's managment of markets for sex. Taken together, The Military and the Market challenges scholars and military policymakers alike to really grapple with the breadth and complexity of U.S. military-market relations over the course of two centuries.
Allan Lumba on Monetary Authorities in the American Colonial Philippines
38:17In this episode, historian Allan Lumba explores how the United States wielded monetary authority in the colonial Philippines, including the role of money as a tool for countering decolonization, entrenching racial and class hierarchies, and directing the profits of colonialism towards the U.S. and Wall Street, in particular, with long-lasting consequences for Filipinos and Americans still dealing with the aftermath of what Lumba calls conditional decolonization.
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Chad Pearson on Klansmen, Employer Vigilantes, and Labor Suppression in the Long Nineteenth Century
35:24This month’s episode takes listeners back in time to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a time of significant labor unrest. At the time, employers, often with government support, went to great lengths to put down dissent, including employing violent tactics such as whippings, kidnappings, shootings, and imprisonment. Among those that helped to spear-head this violent suppression of workers and their allies were groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Law & Order Leagues, and Citizens Alliances. Though usually discussed separately, all of these groups used similar language to tar their lower-class challengers as menacing villains and deployed comparable tactics to suppress them. Calling into question a narrative of business management in this period centered on the adoption of scientific management principles and welfare capitalism, Pearson illuminates the repressive, and often terrifying, tactics undergirding industrial-labor relations at the turn of the 20th century.
Ghassan Moazzin on Foreign Banks and the Making of Modern China
33:21This month’s episode picks up on a theme previously explored on the podcast: international finance. Drawing on a broad range of German, English, Japanese, and Chinese sources, Ghassan Moazzin traces the rise of foreign banking in China during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a period that saw a dramatic increase in international trade and investment in the country. Particular attention is paid to the role of foreign banks in integrating China into global financial markets, including marketing China's sovereign debt, and their involvement in the 1911 Revolution and other events in modern Chinese history.
Claire Dunning on Nonprofit Neighborhoods and Urban Inequality
49:53In this month's episode, Claire Dunning explains how and why non-profits came to play such an important role in U.S. cities after World War II. In doing so, she explores the emergence of non-profit neighborhoods amid various changes in urban policy, starting with urban renewal and continuing through the War on Poverty and the rise of community development corporations. While acknowledging all of the important work done by non-profits, the book also draws attention to a central paradox of our reliance on non-profits to address a range of social issues: the dramatic expansion in non-profits has coincided with rising poverty and inequality, rather than their eradication.
Mircea Raianu on Tata and Global Capitalism in India
49:40In this episode, Mircea Raianu traces the rise of the Tata Group, one of India's largest and oldest companies, from its early days involved in cotton and opium trading to multinational conglomerate invested in everything from salt to software, and, notably, steel. Among the topics discussed, include Tata’s involvement with colonial and anti-colonial developments; international networks of finance capital and scientific management; and Cold War geopolitics. Ultimately, Raianu offers a model for how to study global capitalism in the global South, explicating Tata’s connections to the world and India, while also avoiding the traps of exoticism and over generalization.
Holger Droessler on Coconut Colonialism, Labor, and Globalization in Samoa
46:00This month's episode centers Samoa, including the Pacific islands comprising the present-day independent country of Samoa and American Samoa, examining capitalism, globalization, and coconut colonialism at the turn of the 20th century. In doing so, it pays close attention to the lives of workers, including plantation laborers, ethnographic edutainers, and service workers, revealing how Samoans navigated colonialism and capitalism, contesting exploitative labor conditions, while, at the same time, articulating their own forms of Oceanian globality.
Keith Wailoo on Racial Marketing and the Rise of Menthol Cigarettes
47:05In 2020, George Floyd was killed by police outside a store in Minneapolis known as “the best place to buy menthols.” Of Black Americans who smoke, eighty-percent smoke menthol cigarettes. In this episode, Keith Wailoo explores the history of menthol cigarettes and their marketing to Black Americans. In doing so, he ties together the history of tobacco companies and the disproportionate number of Black deaths at the hands of police violence, COVID-19, and other forms of racial violence and exploitation, giving new meaning to the cry: “I can’t breathe.”
Jason Resnikoff on the Automation Discourse and the Meaning of Work
45:48This month's episode takes a deep dive into the history of work and automation in the post-World War II era. It traces the discourse around automation from its origins in the factory to its wide-ranging implications in political and social life. Countering automation's proponents, who prophesize that robots will soon replace human labor, Jason Resnikoff reveals how the automation discourse has tended to obscure the human beings who continue to labor, often in sped up and intensified manners, alongside machines.
Gregg Mitman on Firestone's Rubber Empire in Liberia
48:53This month's episode focuses on a popular commodity, namely rubber. Despite consuming a large share of the world's rubber supply, the United States has long relied on the global market to meet American demand for rubber. During the early twentieth-century, this dependence on foreign rubber led the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company to the West African nation of Liberia, where the company built one of the largest rubber plantations in the world. What follows is a tale of land expropriation, medical racism, and corporate power that stretches from the 1920s to the 2020s.