Enchantment in the History of Capitalism Conference

Date / time: 29 June - 30 June, All day

Conference Programme: 

Registration is free but required via link. 

29 June: King’s College, Strand Campus 

17h - 18h 

Keynote: Daniel Pick (Birkbeck University): ‘The Wheels of Fortune: reflections on capitalism, enchantment, and chance’ 

Discussant: Astrid van den Bossche (King’s College London) 



30 June: King’s College, Strand Campus 

9h15 – 9h30 


Panel 1: 9h30 - 11h 

Lucy Cory Allen (University of Manchester): ‘“An old baronial castle:” weddings, capitalism, and enchantment as agency in late-Victorian England”’ 

Julie-Marie Strange (Durham University): ‘Saving money and the god of “respectability”: British working-class financial investment as enchanted practice, 1850-1914;  

Sarah Roddy (Maynooth University): ‘Conduits of capitalism: priests, people, and money in modern Ireland’ 

Break: 11h – 11h15 

Panel 2: 11h15 – 12h30  

Will Pooley (University of Bristol): ‘Commercializing magic: France, 1790-1940' 

Kristof Smeyers (University of Antwerp): ‘Enchanting the economic history of Belgium’  

Lunch: 12h30 - 13h30 

Panel 3: 13h30 – 15h 

Jose Bellido (University of Kent): ‘Authors on the other side’  

Anat Rosenberg (Reichman University): ‘The legal dematerialization of enchantment: from prize to brand advertising’ 

Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou (University College London): ‘Real fake: an intellectual history of distortion’  

Break: 15h – 15h15 

Panel 4: 15h15 – 16h45 

Carrie Bramen (University of Buffalo): ‘Astrological speculation on Wall Street’ 

Caley Horan (Massachusetts Institute of Technology): ‘Financial astrology and the naturalization of “the market” in the modern United States’ 

Isabella Streffen (De Montfort University): ‘Counterspells’ (performance lecture) 

Concluding remarks: 16h45 - 17h15

How should we understand the role of enchantment in the history of capitalism?

In recent decades, the human and social sciences have turned to enchantment in its broadest conceptions as a paradigm to better understand present-day market dynamics. They have shown that enchantment functions as a tool and structuring force in diverse aspects of contemporary economic life, be they magical thinking in advertising, astrology on the stock market, occult finance, the quasi-religious celebration of excess or the magical service economy. This vibrant scholarship draws on a critical lineage of thinkers in late capitalism, from Marx to Latour, which has revealed the modern capitalist economy as thriving on non-rational forces, drives, and modes of thinking.

Rather than ask if capitalism is enchanted, then, the question becomes ‘How is capitalism enchanted?’ To answer this question requires an historical approach. Despite influential historically-oriented scholarship, for example Colin Campbell’s The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism (1987) or recently Eugene McCarraher’s The Enchantments of Mammon (2019), histories have yet to examine the role of enchantment in the development of economic structures, relationships, ideas, businesses and markets on a systematic level.This conference, organised by the ‘Enchantment in the History of Capitalism’ network, aims to provide a first major intervention in this nascent field, and to set a research agenda for studying enchantment(s) in the history of capitalism. More information about the network, as well as previous research initiatives and a working bibliography, can be found at economic-enchantments.net.

The conference will open with a reception and keynote address on June 29, and continue with work-in-progress discussions on June 30 at King’s College London, Strand Campus

Please note that we will circulate short versions (3-8 pages) of the presenters’ papers three weeks in advance.

Conference webpage: https://economic-enchantments.net/events/conference_2023/#programme