Capitalism 3.2

Article Abstracts –  Summer 2022


Death of the Journal Editor?
Editorial Group


The Universal Mint: Mexico’s Silver and the World Economy (1821–1870)
Sandra Kuntz Ficker

Throughout the modern era Mexico was the most important producer and provider of silver to the world economy; this continued to be true following Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821 and until the end of international bimetallism in the 1870s. However, reconstruction of the flows of Mexico’s silver into the world economy has proven to be elusive. The reason for this is that neither Mexico nor Great Britain, the main importer of Mexican silver and the country that would increasingly act as the financial center of the world, has kept reliable registers of precious metals’ exports and imports. The aim of this paper is twofold. On the one hand, using a broad array of sources that have not been employed for this purpose before, it constructs a new annual series of Mexico’s silver exports between 1821 and 1870. On the other hand, it describes the main routes and destinations of Mexican silver and analyzes the uses that major importers made of it. Between 1822 and 1850 the function performed by Mexican silver was to support the monetary systems of Europe, especially France, and of the United States. Then, starting in 1850, Mexican silver played a vital role in strengthening the economic integration of the East into the world economy.

Africa and Capitalism: Repairing a History of Omission
Toby Green

In the past two decades, economic history has been marked by an increasing turn toward global frameworks and analyses, but these still tend to omit the African continent prior to the nineteenth century. This article explores this omission beginning with an examination of the historiographical roots of this absence from the perspective of both economic history and African history. From its inception, economics depended on the displacing of African economic actors from global frameworks. Meanwhile, the emergence of African history as a discipline in the 1960s also saw the displacement of indigenous economic actors from precolonial frameworks. Linking African economic activity to new perspectives on capitalism—focusing on the connection of enslaved and wage labor in precolonial manufacturing—this article seeks to repair this striking omission. It argues that the history of capitalism cannot be fully global until African frameworks are properly included.

A More Indian Path to Prosperity? Hindu Nationalism and Development in the Mid-Twentieth Century and Beyond
Aditya Balasubramanian

The question of how a country can pursue economic policy while safeguarding its— its national autonomy and identity from foreign influence in an unequal world has assumed new importance in the context of the rise of authoritarian leaders and critical interrogation of globalization in the late twentieth century. The analytic power of terms like neoliberalism and populism is questionable in explaining the economic policy mix or trajectory of an individual nation, especially in the non-Western world. Unearthing the idioms of expression and claims to authenticity of various political interests vying for influence on the scale of the nation-state may be more fruitful. A mosaic of such fragments can help illuminate the opacity of the economic present. Turning back to the period of decolonization in the mid-twentieth century, this article shows how India’s recently ascendant Hindu nationalists sought to stake their legitimacy on reconciling economic development to their form of cultural nationalism. It shows how and why Hindu nationalists fashioned a program of small-scale local industrial development and intranational trade as a more authentic alternative to the economic planning being pursued in India and elsewhere. This vision of development focused on the small Hindu trader of North India, the Hindu nationalists’ chief constituency. The legacies of this vein of thinking live on, bolstering popular support for Hindu nationalism and posing challenges to efforts seeking to further integrate India into the global economy.

Austerity without Neoliberals: Reappraising the Sinuous History of a Powerful State Technology
Cristian Capotescu, Oscar Sanchez-Sibony, Melissa Teixeira

Since the 1980s, austerity has become synonymous with neoliberal “free” markets and the retreat of the state. With case studies from early Stalinist Russia, interwar corporatist Portugal, and late socialist Romania, we offer an alternative historical geography of austerity in the twentieth century. Significantly, we argue that austerity was not a corollary of neoliberalism but fulfilled the crucial functions of state-building, state transformation, and state maintenance in systems falling outside the liberal framework. The regimes under study resorted to austerity to drive deep structural change, expand state capacity, and pursue utopian promises of future-oriented progress and national independence. Focusing on places on the margins of the global capitalist economy, we uncover often-overlooked tool kits—both theoretical and technical—that state officials used to implement austerity. Collectively, we show how austerity is, at its core, a technology of the state and a mode of governance, widely adopted across political ideologies and economic systems in the past century.

Central Bank Digital Currency in Historical Perspective: Another Crossroad in Monetary History
Michael D. Bordo

Digitalization of money is a crossroad in monetary history. Advances in technology have led to the development of new forms of money: virtual (crypto) currencies like bitcoin, stable coins like libra/diem, and central bank digital currencies (CBDC) like the Bahamian sand dollar. These innovations in money and finance resonate with earlier shifts in monetary history: 1) the shift in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries from commodity money (gold and silver coins) to convertible fiduciary money and inconvertible fiat money; 2) the shift in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries from central bank notes to a central bank monopoly; and 3) the evolution since the seventeenth century of central banks and the tools of monetary policy. This paper makes the case for CBDC through the lens of monetary history. The bottom line is that the history of transformations in monetary systems suggests that technical change in money is inevitably driven by the financial incentives of a market economy. Government has always had a key role in the provision of outside money, which is a public good. Government has also regulated inside money provided by the private sector. This held for fiduciary money and will likely hold for digital money. CBDC could make monetary policy more efficient, and it could transform the international monetary and payments systems.


Kindleberger the Linguist
Marc Flandreau

The French Crime of 1873: A Comment
Charles P. Kindleberger