Who Makes Cents?: A History of Capitalism Podcast

Today, China is the U.S. third largest trading partner and second-largest source of imports. This wasn’t always the case. Indeed, in the 1970s, when the United States first began trading with communist China after several decades, few could have foreseen such a scenario. In this episode, guest Elizbeth Ingleson reveals the surprising story of how two Cold War foes found common cause in transforming China’s economy into a source of cheap labor. Along the way, we discuss some of the key policy decisions and Chinese and American actors, including U.S. business, that facilitated China’s convergence with the capitalist world. 

Direct download: Final_Episode_Ingleson.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:48am EDT

When we study capitalism, we usually focus on the active time in people’s lives: the moments where things like work, consumption, production, trade, accumulation, and exchange all happen. But Teresa Ghilarducci, the guest on this week’s episode, argues that capitalism also shapes what happens next, in that period after people’s working lives have come to an end.

Teresa’s new book, Work, Retire, Repeat: The Uncertainty of Retirement in the New Economy tells the story of how retirement—just like work—has become much more precarious over the past several decades. It’s a story about politics, about demographics, about economics. How we pay for retirement, she reveals, tells us a lot about what we value in our society, and how that’s changed over time. And along the way, she offers us a few policy proposals that just might remedy the way we handle retirement today.

Direct download: WMC_EPISODE-Teresa_Ghilraducci.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:30am EDT

In this month's episode, co-host Jessica Levy and guest Cheryl Narumi Naruse examine popular narratives surrounding Singapore's "miraculous" journey from Third to First world nation, currently ranked third in the world in terms of Gross Domestic Product per capita. The episode takes a particular look at the period leading up to and following the 1997 Asian financial crisis, during which this tiny island city-state underwent a massive rebranding campaign to transform its reputation from a culturally sterile and punitive nation to an alluring location for economic flourishing. Topics discussed include Singapore’s relationship with a core constituency of Global Asia, namely Overseas Singaporeans, genres of postcolonial capitalism, and much, much more.

Direct download: Final_Episode_Cheryl_Narumi_Naruse.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:16pm EDT

One recent study found that 81% of businesses in the United States have zero employees. That is, they are run by sole proprietors, working for and by themselves, The ideal of self-employment has become dominant in our culture, too. More Americans than ever dream of becoming an entrepreneur, an independent owner, a founder.

But for all of its prevalence in our economy and in our imaginations, the origins of this impulse are a bit hazy. When did so many of us begin to idolize self-employment? What might it reveal about broader shifts in the employment landscape in the 20th and 21st centuries? In his new book, One Day I'll Work for Myself: The Dream and Delusion That Conquered America, Ben Waterhouse answers precisely those questions. He explains how the rise of self-employment dates back to the economic transformations of the 1970s and intensified during the decades of precarity that followed. In our wide-ranging conversation, we touch on everything from franchise jurisprudence to the gig economy to the surprising story behind the Sam Adams beer company.

Direct download: WMC_EPISODE-_March_2024-_Waterhouse.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

Most scholars would date the origins of neoliberalism to the 1970s, when a range of crises gave rise to new forms of market-oriented governance.

But Brent Cebul, our guest on this month's episode, argues that liberalism’s sharp turn towards neoliberalism wasn’t so sharp after all. In fact, as early as the New Deal, liberals tried to realize their policy goals through market means. And officials in Washington worked hand-in-hand with otherwise conservative business and municipal elites on those development programs. Throughout the entirety of the long twentieth century, liberals have bound their visions of progress to the local needs of capital. In the process, they’ve ended up entrenching the very inequalities that they had set out to solve in the first place.


Direct download: WMC-Feb_24-Cebul.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 3:18pm EDT

In 2022, roughly one in 10 suburban residents lived in poverty (9.6%), compared to about one in six in primary cities (16.2%), according to a recent study by the Brookings Institute. The issue of suburban poverty has garnered significant attention, prompting more than a bit of nostalgia for the good ole days of when suburbs were prosperous, living proof of the American dream. This narrative of postwar suburbia as prosperous, if also exclusive places, has been reinforced by historians and other scholars who, over the years, have shown how the federal government via FHA-insured mortgages and other programs facilitated a dramatic rise in suburban homeownership after WWII, while laregely restricting access through covenants and zoning laws to White Americans.

But is this the full story? In this month's episode, Tim Keogh challenges this narrative, demonstrating that for many the postwar American suburban dream was more myth than reality. Alongside exclusive white middle-class communities, Keogh explains how the suburbs have long served as home to low-income residents, whose labor in construction, retail, childcare and a range of other low-wage jobs helped enable suburban prosperity in the absence of a robust welfare state. Along the way, we explore the policy decisions that helped to ensure poverty's persistence alongside prosperity and what we can do today to eliminate poverty wherever it might appear.



Direct download: Hindenburg_Final_Episode_Tim_Keogh.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:23pm EDT

Today, discussions of care are ubiquitous. From employer-programs promoting self-care to the $800 billion healthcare industry, care forms a central part of our lives and the economy. But, are the systems and structures currently in place to care serving those who need it the most? This month's episode, featuring historian and activist Premilla Nadasen, takes a close look at the care economy and its relationship to racial capitalism and the reconfiguration of the welfare state. Along the way, we talk about the rise of the care-industrial-complex, wherein private corporations and non-profits benefit from public investment in care; what it's like for those who work in the care industry; and what a caring society built on radical care, as opposed to care-for-profit, might look like. 

Direct download: Final_Episode_Premilla_Nadasen.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:46am EDT