Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

Conference: Towards a Global History of Primitive Accumulation

9 May 2019 to 11 May 2019
IISH, Amsterdam

A conference co-sponsored by the International Institute of Social History, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Pittsburgh

This conference aims for a historically grounded rethinking of the concept of “primitive” or “original” accumulation of capital. With this phrase, Karl Marx tried to capture the dual process by which wealth was accumulated in the hands of capitalists on the one hand, and labor power was commodified and made available for exploitation on the other. Recalling the often neglected violence of the centuries-long process that transformed peasant producers into industrial workers, Marx famously raged that its history was “written in the annals of mankind in letters of blood and fire.” More than 150 years later, the same processes he described have continued to unfold all over the world, including in ostensibly socialist countries like the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, and many postcolonial states throughout the global south. Given the current wave of interest in the role of violence and forced labor in the history of the global economy, we think the time has come to critically re-examine these processes, focusing in particular on the ways in which primitive accumulation has been a critical feature of economic development on a world scale.

Organizing committee:
Pepijn Brandon (VU Amsterdam / International Institute of Social History) 
Niklas Frykman (University of Pittsburgh)
Wendy Goldman (Carnegie Mellon University) 
Marcus Rediker (University of Pittsburgh)
Marcel van der Linden (International Institute of Social History)