In this talk, Mitchell analyzes the birth of the economy in relation to a wider and earlier development, the rise of the large corporation. If the economy involved what has been called "economization" (the work of rendering things calculable and creating economic agents), the large corporation involved the larger project of "capitalization. The corporation emerged as a way of building technical-spatial arrangements (initially colonies, canals, and railways, later oil fields, dams, urban fabrics, industrial processes, and consumer worlds) whose scale, durability, and powers of control promised a future stream of income that could be traded speculatively in the present. The birth of the economy was a short-lived attempt to stabilize the increasingly unstable speculative futures on which capitalization came to depend.
Timothy Mitchell is a political theorist who studies the political economy of the Middle East, the political role of economics and other forms of expert knowledge, the politics of large-scale technical systems, and the place of colonialism in the making of modernity. Educated at Queens' College, Cambridge, where he received a first-class honors degree in history, Mitchell completed his Ph.D. in politics and Near Eastern studies at Princeton University in 1984. Mitchell served over twenty years as director of the Center for Near Eastern Studies at New York University and is now a professor and chair of the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University.