The Disciplines Series

The Society of Fellows in the Humanities presents “Calculating Capitalism”

Friday, April 25, 2014 - Saturday, April 26, 2014  9:00am The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room


Heyman Center for the Humanities

Among the most striking trends charted in the humanities in recent years has been the remarkable investment made in trying to understand modern capitalism. This conference seeks to profit from that boom by bringing together a range of scholars from the various disciplines that have developed novel methods for studying economic life: history, sociology, anthropology, science and technology studies, literary studies, as well as economics, accounting, and business studies. Organizing the conference will be the theme of calculation. Participants are invited to present papers that examine the place of computations, computational technologies, and the individuals who carry them out within the activities of capitalism. “Calculation” is understood expansively, encompassing a wide range of technicality, from the rudiments of commercial accounting to the most intricate algorithms of current quantitative finance. Economic calculation might be found in many places: the budgeting practices of the family, the capital expenditure decisions of the corporate manager, the investment theses of the financier, the theoretical models of the academic economist, the public accounts of the state. It is hoped that examples will be drawn from a wide range of geographies and time periods, from the early-modern period to the present day.

Participants are particularly encouraged to reflect on how calculations encode the values—economic but also moral, political, and epistemological—of capitalism. How have particular calculations shaped (and continue to shape) market activities, as well as the regulations that govern them and the ethical expectations to which they are held? What cultural, social, and historical factors have been most important in shaping capitalism’s essential calculations? What calculations have come to define what qualifies as rational economic behavior, for individuals, firms, or governments? How have calculations come to measure political-economic success, whether for a credit-seeking individual, a corporate CEO, or a “developing” nation? What role have calculations served in reconciling or exacerbating the political tensions produced by capitalism? Have calculations promoted economic accessibility, both in the sense of facilitating commercial and governmental transparency and in making business activities open to a greater number of people? What role do scholars, particularly those adopting humanistic and qualitative methods, have to play in shaping our economy’s quantitative future?

This event is free and open to the public. Seating is first come, first served.

Please note: Seating is limited for this event.


  • Michele Alacevich

    Assistant Professor of History and Director of Global Studies

    Loyola University, Maryland

  • Timothy Alborn

    Professor of History

    Lehman College, CUNY

  • Elizabeth Blackmar

    Professor of History

    Columbia University

  • Dan Bouk

    Assistant Professor of History

    Colgate University

  • Dermot Coleman

    Founder and Director

    Sisu Capital Limited

  • Eli Cook

    Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow

    Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis, Rutgers University

  • William Deringer

    Assistant Professor of Science, Technology, and Society

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Nancy Henry


    University of Tennessee, Knoxville

  • Matthew L. Jones

    James R. Barker Professor of Contemporary Civilization

    Columbia University

  • Dotan Leshem

    Visiting Scholar

    Institute for Comparative Literature and Society

  • Donald MacKenzie


    University of Edinburgh

  • Yuval Millo

    Professor of Social Studies of Finance and Management Accounting

    University of Leicester

  • Gustav Peebles

    Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs

    The New School

  • Christopher Phillips

    Assistant Professor and Faculty Fellow

    New York University

  • Jamie Pietruska

    Assistant Professor

    Rutgers University

  • Paolo Quattrone

    Chair in Accounting Governance & Social Innovation

    University of Edinburgh Business School

  • Caitlin Rosenthal

    Assistant Professor

    University of California, Berkeley

  • Natasha Schull

    Associate Professor

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Timothy Shenk

    Jacob K. Javits Fellow in History

    Columbia University

  • Jacob Soll

    Professor of History and Accounting

    University of Southern California

  • Rebecca Woods

    Assistant Professor

    University of Toronto


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