Skip to main content

Events

Science & Capitalism: Entangled Histories - Workshop for the 2018 Volume of Osiris

General Programming

Cosponsors
  • Weatherhead East Asian Institute
  • Center for the Science and Society
Organizers
  • William Deringer, MIT
  • Eugenia Lean, Columbia University
  • Lukas Rieppel, Brown University
Notes
  • Registration required. See details.

The histories of science and capitalism have always been bound up together. As far back as the 17th century, if not before, precise and detailed empirical knowledge has been valued by those seeking commercial gain. It is therefore no surprise that modern scholars have taken a keen interest in tracing the connections between the production of natural knowledge and development of commercial networks, between matters of fact and matters of exchange. Since Max Weber’s polemical account of the protestant work ethic, Boris Hessen’s materialist take on Newton’s Principia, and Robert K. Merton’s doctoral thesis on the culture of knowledge production in Puritan England (published as the fourth issue of Osiris), the evolving relationship between science and capitalism has been a central concern of science studies.

Moreover, scholarly interest in the way science and capitalism interact has not diminished with time. In today’s world of patented gene sequences, spinoff biotech companies, and technology transfer offices, the question of how personal self-interest coexists with the ideal of science as the disinterested pursuit of objective truth has only grown in importance. Not only that, but the financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath has prompted a much broader interest in the history and development of modern capitalism across the academy. At the heart of this “new” history of capitalism has been a desire to denaturalize markets: to understand capitalism not as an abstract force or inevitable stage in economic development, but as a constellation of institutions, beliefs, and relationships created by particular people with specific motivations informed by their local circumstances. Recent work on the history of capitalism therefore resembles many of the most exciting contributions to the history of science in that it is a history of practices, from the managerial control procedures employed by slave-owning capitalists in the Antebellum American South to the peculiar affective experiences of traders in modern finance.

Given these synergies between recent work on the history of science and capitalism, we are now in an opportune moment to step back, look around, and take a stock of the mutual entanglements between these two cultural institutions. What role have profit motives and commercial self-interest played in the knowledge-making enterprises of science, and, conversely, how have the practices and prestige of science contributed to the profit-making enterprises of capitalism? With this in mind, we propose a volume of Osiris that revisits and reframes some of the foundational questions that energized science studies scholarship in the 20th century while posing new agendas for 21st-century research.

In preparation for this volume, we will be holding a workshop for contributors to discuss draft papers. We encourage interested scholars from Columbia and the New York area to join the conversation. Pre-registration is required.

Program

time9:00am - 10:30am EDT

Panel 1
The Making of a Chinese Copycat

Eugenia Lean

Professor of East Asian Language-Culture

Columbia University

When Machines Were Texts

Mario Biagioli

Distinguished Professor of Law and Science and Technology Studies

University of California, Davis, School of Law

time10:30am - 11:00am EDT

Break

time11:00am - 12:30pm EDT

Panel 2
Bringing Japanese Microbial Gardens to Life

Victoria Lee

Assistant professor of history of science and technology

Ohio University

A Manufactory of 'omes?

Hallam Stevens

Assistant Professor of History

Nanyang Technological University

time12:30pm - 2:00pm EDT

Lunch

time2:00pm - 3:30pm EDT

Panel 3
TBA

Martin Giraudeau

Assistant Professor of Accounting

London School of Economics

Sciences and Economies in the Scientific Revolution

Harold Cook

John F. Nickoll Professor of History

Brown University

time3:30pm - 4:00pm EDT

Break

time4:00pm - 5:30pm EDT

Panel 4
Smoke Ring

Sarah Milov

Assistant Professor of History

University of Virginia

Safe Driving Depends on the Man at the Wheel

Lee Vinsel

Assistant Professor of Science and Technology Studies

Stevens Institute of Technology

time9:00am - 10:30am EDT

Panel 1
Science and Capitalism in Africa

Catherine Burns

Historian

University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

The Herbarium in the Genebank

Courtney Fullilove

Assistant Professor of History

Wesleyan University

time10:30am - 11:00am EDT

Break

time11:00am - 12:30pm EDT

Panel 2
Lies, Damned Lies, and (Bourgeois) Statistics

Arunabh Ghosh

Assistant Professor of History

Harvard University

Compound Interest Corrected

William Deringer

Assistant Professor of Science, Technology, and Society

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

time12:30pm - 2:00pm EDT

Lunch

time2:00pm - 3:30pm EDT

Panel 3
Organizing in the Marketplace

Lukas Rieppel

David and Michelle Ebersman Assistant Professor of History

Brown University

Feeding Desire

Emily Pawley

Assistant Professor of History

Dickinson College

time3:30pm - 4:00pm EDT

Break

time4:00pm - 5:30pm EDT

Panel 4
Scientific Crude' for Currency

Julia Fein

Visiting Assistant Professor

Macalester College

The Price of Science in Nineteenth-Century America

Paul Lucier

Independent Scholar

time6:00pm - 7:30pm EDT

Reception
Participants
  • Naomi Beck Institute for the History & Philosophy of Science University of Paris-1 (Panthéon-Sorbonne)
  • Mario Biagioli Distinguished Professor of Law and Science and Technology Studies University of California, Davis, School of Law
  • Catherine Burns Historian University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
  • Harold Cook John F. Nickoll Professor of History Brown University
  • Julia Fein Visiting Assistant Professor Macalester College
  • Courtney Fullilove Assistant Professor of History Wesleyan University
  • Arunabh Ghosh Assistant Professor of History Harvard University
  • Victoria Lee Assistant professor of history of science and technology Ohio University
  • Paul Lucier Independent Scholar
  • Sarah Milov Assistant Professor of History University of Virginia
  • Emily Pawley Assistant Professor of History Dickinson College
  • David Singerman Research Associate Harvard Business School
  • Hallam Stevens Assistant Professor of History Nanyang Technological University
  • Lee Vinsel Assistant Professor of Science and Technology Studies Stevens Institute of Technology
  • Martin Giraudeau Assistant Professor of Accounting London School of Economics