Mapping Wealth over the Longue Durée: Kondratieff Cycles and Creative Destruction in the Long Twentieth-Century.

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 15:42
Oral Presentation
Roberto P KORZENIEWICZ, Department of Sociology, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, University of Maryland, USA
Corey PAYNE, Johns Hopkins University, USA
This paper uses original historical data on what Fernand Braudel called the “top layers” of production, trade and exchange, to map out the unique geographical and social configurations that have characterized networks of wealth accumulation between 1500 and 2015. Our comparative dataset, spanning from the fifteenth century to contemporary times, is important because it provides a unique empirical basis for reasessing many of the prevailing debates and assumptions about the role of elites, labour and the accumulation of wealth in the development of capitalism. For example, our comparative data challenge many accounts of capitalist development (including some world-systems perspectives) that uncritically reproduce an eurocentric bias in their narratives, showing instead that wealthy merchants and bankers in areas such as India and China played crucial roles, and profited enormously, from the global expansion of trade between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. Moreover, we are able to map the changing spatial characteristics of wealth accumulation, identifying how epicenters of wealth creation moved across the world, in a process of creative destruction that constantly enriched some locations while impoverishing others. We also find that the growth of wealth recurrently entails shifting resources into finance, where heightened mobility allows some elites to minimize their exposure to, and exploit the opportunities created by, the uncertainties of creative destruction. However, shifts into finance appear to be a rather constant feature of accumulation rather than cyclical phenomena. Finally, our data allow us to both reassess and enrich key interpretations of the temporal and spatial characteristics of economic cycles.