The United States Political Economy Lab

Co-hosted by the Intitut d’études avancées de Paris and the Center for Critical Democracy Studies at AUP.

Organized by Noam Maggor, Ariel Ron, and Sofia Valeonti.


How can we best account for the historical trajectory of American capitalism? Traditional explanations have assumed that market forces did the heavy lifting, with the state serving a secondary role if at all. Now is an opportune time to reconsider these entrenched perspectives and recover the proactive role of government in American economy history. To this end, the United States Political Economy Lab (UPEL) gathers an international cohort of historians and economists with interest in the history of American capitalism over the long nineteenth century. Our goal has been to rethink market-drive paradigms that have long framed our understanding of the political economy of the United States, and especially the shifting relations between state and markets. We aim to not only uncover American state capacity but to explore government’s decisive role in directing market activity. What made the US like or unlike other burgeoning settler societies around the globe, and, more generally, other industrializing nations? How could we best characterize the relationships between state and private actors in the US, on the federal level and on the level of the individual states? What have been the social alignments, coalitions, and confrontations that shaped and reshaped American institutions over time? How is it that the US—long associated with liberal markets—inspired figures such as Alexander Hamilton and Friedrich List to theorize key developmental approaches and policies? How would their insights modify or complement canonical accounts of American institutions that foreground a hands-off commitment to competitive markets? Given the privileged place of the US as a model for policy formation around the world – at least until recently – the implications of this research agenda could be profound, destabilizing longstanding assumptions about the sources and standards of economic success.


Below, please find our seminar schedule for 2022-2023. Please also find a link to a call for papers for our upcoming symposium to be held in Paris, May 25 - 26, 2023, titled “The American Developmental State: The Origins of American Capitalism in Comparative Perspective.”