Who Makes Cents?: A History of Capitalism Podcast

The history of globalization is one that has often been told as a story of elites. There are a number of truths to this narrative. Yet, as Casey Lurtz shows, it also ignores some things. In From the Grounds Up: Building an Export Economy in Southern Mexico, Lurtz tells the history of how a border region, the Soconusco, became  Mexico’s leading coffee exporter. She does so not by focusing on the Mexican politicians and foreign capitalists who came to the Soconusco with dreams of grandeur. Rather, as the title suggest, Lurtz digs below the surface of these visions to reveal the role played by local people in the dual projects of economic liberalism and globalization.

Direct download: Hindenburg_File_Final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:08pm EDT

Thanks to the work of activists and intellectuals like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jamelle Bouie, Black peoples’ demand for reparations have garnered growing attention among politicians, business leaders, university officials, and journalists. For those that argue that reparations are not possible or that too much time has passed, today’s guest has an important story to tell about a formerly enslaved woman named Henrietta Wood who sued for restitution in 1870 and won; paid $2,500, what is likely the largest sum ever awarded by a court in the United States in restitution for slavery. Wood’s story, which crosses multiple boundaries between lower and upper South, the antebellum and postbellum period, blurring the distinctions between, offers us valuable lessons about the history of slavery and freedom, and the lengths that different people went to in order to achieve both. More importantly, Henrietta Wood raises the question once again on people’s lips: what is owed to the formerly enslaved and their descendants? And demonstrates that such restitution is long overdue.

Direct download: Hindenburg_File_MP3_File.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:36am EDT

Many of us are familiar with the negative health effects of coffee, which include insomnia, nervousness, upset stomach, and increased heart rate. Yet, this hasn’t seemed to stop many Americans from reaching for a cup, or two or three, of coffee to help them make it through the day. One estimate puts coffee consumption in the United States at 400 million cups of coffee a day, or more than 140 billion cups a year, making the United States the world’s leading consumer of coffee. Yet, for all the coffee we consumer, we spend little time thinking about how this reliance affects the people who make it.

Augustine Sedgewick seeks to change that with his new book, Coffeeland: One Man’s Dark Empire and the Making of Our Favorite Drug. Starting with coffee’s origins in the Middle East, he reveals how coffee spread to Europe and the New World alongside European imperialism, transforming whole societies in the process. Moving forward in time, he explains how the United States used its status as a consumer of coffee to expand its influence in the hemisphere. All in all, the story told here is about much more than coffee, integrating histories of labor, food, business, and imperialism to reveal how global capitalism creates disconnections, as well as connections.

Direct download: Hindenburg_File_Sedgewick.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:21pm EDT

It will come as little surprise to most listeners that America’s metropolitan areas are racially segregated and unequal. While the suburbs surrounding American cities tend to be relatively affluent and white, many urban areas, especially those with large non-white populations, remain under-resourced and under-served in comparison to their white suburban counterparts. Even as gentrification and other forces have increasingly forced poorer non-white residents to seek housing on the city’s periphery, suburbs continue to be associated with wealth and whiteness.

Existing explanations for this political geography tend to focus on governmental policies and consumer behavior during the time period spanning the New Deal through World War II and the immediate post-war period. Once considered obscure academic parlance, terms like red-lining, white flight, and government-backed mortgages now regularly appear as part of popular discussions of housing inequality. While not refuting the importance of these events, Paige Glotzer situates American suburbs in a longer history of exclusionary practices dating back to the 19th century. In doing so, she also ties the American suburb to a broader history of racial capitalism and white settler colonialism.

Paige Glotzer is Assistant Professor & John W. and Jeanne M. Rowe Chair in the History of American Politics, Institutions, and Political Economy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of How the Suburbs Were Segregated: Developers and the Business of Exclusionary Housing 1890-1960

Direct download: WMC_Paige_Glotzer_Final_Episode.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:34pm EDT

We’ve all heard the statistics regarding Americans and fast food. According to the National Health and Nutrition Survey, one third of Americans consumed fast food on any given day. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the fast food industry employed nearly 3.8 million Americans, many in minimum wage jobs. Not everyone has the same relationship with fast food. In this episode, we speak with Marcia Chatelain about  the dramatic impact one fast food company, McDonald’s, has had on black communities and black politics over the last half century. In doing so, she provides us with fresh insight on the relationship between fast food, race, and American capitalism.

Marcia Chatelain is a Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor of history and African American studies at Georgetown University. She is the author of Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America.

Direct download: Marcia_Chatelain_MP3.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:33am EDT

David and Alex are retiring from the show! But a new host is joining to take the reins. Listen to hear the founding co-hosts reflect on the past six years of the show and to meet our new host, Jessica Levy.

Direct download: TransitionEpisode.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 1:50pm EDT

Today, we have a special episode. We speak to Zach Carter about COVID-19 and Keyesnianism. Zach is the author of the upcoming book The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes. 

On Wednesday March 18th, he published an op-ed on Keynes's ideas for today.

If you like this episode, please donate to Mariame Kaba's redistribution, mutual aid fund: https://www.paypal.com/pools/c/8npOgwIczH

Zach Carter is a senior reporter at HuffPost, where he covers Congress, the White House, and economic policy. He is a frequent guest on cable news and news radio, and his written work has also appeared in The New Republic, The Nation, and The American Prospect, among other outlets. His story, “Swiped: Banks, Merchants and Why Washington Doesn’t Work for You” was included in the Columbia Journalism Review’s compilation Best Business Writing. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Direct download: Zach_Carter_on_Keynesianism_and_COVID_19.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 4:37pm EDT

Dara Orenstein on the Economic Geography of Warehouses

If you’re like many people throughout the country and world, you’ve purchased something on Amazon. As a result, you’ve been incorporated into a set of supply chain relationships that inevitably pass through warehouses. On this episode, we return to topic we’ve discussed in past episodes—how logistics shapes capitalism. We speak to Dara Orenstein about the history of bonded warehouses specifically and foreign trade zones. We consider how taxes, tariffs, and legal locations have been a critical component in many of the products we buy and make.

Dara Orenstein is an Associate Professor of American Studies at George Washington University. She is author of Out of Stock: The Warehouse in the History of Capitalism 

Direct download: Dara_Orenstein_on_Warehouses.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 6:46pm EDT

Often, analyses of the intersections between race and capitalism consider how capitalism harms dispossessed communities of color because excluding or neglecting them is profitable. But what if serving those communities could be both very profitable and very damaging to the people in them? We speak with Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor about what she calls “predatory inclusion,” in which financial institutions and real estate interests sought to build black homeownership. In the process, they reaped tremendous profits and devastated the lives of black homeowners.

Direct download: Keeanga_Yamhatta_Taylor.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 3:58pm EDT

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