How should we understand the role of enchantment in the history of capitalism?
In recent decades, the human and social sciences have turned to enchantment in its broadest conceptions as a paradigm to better understand present-day market dynamics. They have shown that enchantment functions as a tool and structuring force in diverse aspects of contemporary economic life, be they magical thinking in advertising, astrology on the stock market, occult finance, the quasi-religious celebration of excess or the magical service economy. This vibrant scholarship draws on a critical lineage of thinkers in late capitalism, from Marx to Latour, which has revealed the modern capitalist economy as thriving on non-rational forces, drives, and modes of thinking.
Rather than ask if capitalism is enchanted, then, the question becomes ‘How is capitalism enchanted?’ To answer this question requires an historical approach. Despite influential historically-oriented scholarship, for example Colin Campbell’s The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism (1987) or recently Eugene McCarraher’s The Enchantments of Mammon (2019), histories have yet to examine the role of enchantment in the development of economic structures, relationships, ideas, businesses and markets on a systematic level. This conference, organised by the ‘Enchantment in the History of Capitalism’ network, aims to provide a first major intervention in this nascent field, and to set a research agenda for studying enchantment(s) in the history of capitalism. More information about the network, as well as previous research initiatives and a working bibliography, can be found at economic-enchantments.net.
The conference will open with a reception and keynote address on June 29, and continue with work-in-progress discussions on June 30 at King’s College London, Strand Campus
Please note that we will circulate short versions (3-8 pages) of the presenters’ papers three weeks in advance.
Conference webpage: https://economic-enchantments.net/events/conference_2023/#programme
Wanting to join us on the day? Register here!