Northwestern Events Calendar


Timothy Mitchell - "On Capitalization"

When: Monday, October 8, 2018
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM CT

Where: Harris Hall, Room 108, 1881 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: FREE

Contact: Janet Hundrieser   (847) 491-3525

Group: Science in Human Culture Program - Klopsteg Lecture Series

Co-Sponsor: Middle East and North African Studies

Category: Lectures & Meetings




Timothy Mitchell, Columbia University


On Capitalization


We have recently come to understand “the economy” not as a feature of all societies, nor as an aspect of the emergence of market societies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but as a mode of organizing material worlds and calculative agents that developed much more recently, in the mid-twentieth century. We imagine the economy as a macro-object, the product of new statistical work, regulation, and management organized at the level of the nation-state. But this is misleading, for making the economy was a work of scaling down and excluding things from calculation. The birth of the economy is better understood in relation to a wider and earlier development, the rise of the large corporation. If the economy involved what has been called “economization” (the work of rendering things calculable and creating economic agents), the large corporation involved the larger project of “capitalization.” The corporation emerged as a way of building technical-spatial arrangements—initially colonies, canals, and railways, later oil fields, dams, urban fabrics, industrial processes, and consumer worlds—whose scale, durability, and powers of control promised a future stream of income that could be traded speculatively in the present. The birth of the economy was a short-lived attempt to stabilize the increasingly unstable speculative futures on which capitalization had come to depend.


Timothy Mitchell is a political theorist and historian at Columbia University. His areas of research include the place of colonialism in the making of modernity, the material and technical politics of the Middle East, and the role of economics and other forms of expert knowledge in the government of collective life. His books include Colonising Egypt (1991), Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity (2002), and Carbon Democracy (2012).

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