Public Programs And Events

Capitalism Contested: Class Struggle, Technocracy, and the New Politics of Austerity

Capitalism Contested: Class Struggle, Technocracy, and the New Politics of Austerity

Room UL104, University Center
General Public 

Join us for a lecture with Clara E. Mattei - Assistant Professor at the Economics Department.

The first World War shook the very foundations of capitalism. In 1919, this crisis of capitalism was undoubtedly unprecedented. Most importantly, the crisis was at once inextricably economic and political. The financial crisis was at the same time a crisis of legitimacy of the capitalist social relations of production. In fact, the state had crossed the boundary of its legitimate activity and had disrupted its neutral position with respect to the market. Once the traditional boundary between the economic and political faltered and with it the rule of private property, wage relations and money broke down, contestation emerged more than ever. Why? Primarily because private ownership of means of production and wage relations were no longer understood as the only or best way to organize production and distribution. The sudden and unpredicted structural transformations of the economy opened up spaces for realizing the contingent and historical nature of capitalist institutions. Radicalization of the workers was in the air because of a further fundamental realization: state intervention within the economy was not a neutral act in the name of the good of the whole, but rather an authoritarian force to perpetuate profit of the ruling class. Put simply, the historical conditions allowed for citizens to see that things could be different. The rationalities of the system were breaking down and with it came proposals for radical alternatives that would overcome them. In this lecture we will delve into the meaning of these structural transformations to then explore how, through austerity policies, economic experts intervened to restore the stability of capitalism and break down any possibility for social change. 

Clara E. Mattei is Assistant Professor at the Economics Department of The New School for Social Research (NYC). Her research contributes to the history of capitalism, exploring the critical relation between economic ideas and technocratic policy making. She is currently working on her book project called Economic Crisis and Technocratic Repression: On the Origins and Rationality of Austerity. The book investigates austerity as a powerful tool of reaction against the unprecedented crisis of capitalism after WWI, the mobilization of the working classes and the proposals for post-capitalist reconstruction. Her recent articles include:  “Treasury View and Post-WWI British Austerity: Basil Blackett, Otto Niemeyer, and Ralph Hawtrey” (Cambridge Journal of Economics, 2018) “Austerity and Repressive Politics: Italian Economists in the first years of the Fascist government” (European Journal of the History of Economic Thought 2017); “The Guardians of capitalism: International Consensus and the Technocratic implementation of Austerity” (Journal of Law and Society, 2017).

This lecture is sponsored by the Department of Historical Studies at Eugene Lang College and the New School for Social Research and The New School’s Centennial Celebration and run in conjunction with the Global 1919 Lecture Series

This event is part of The New School's Centennial celebration. Learn more at • #100YearsNew

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