In view of the widely reported cases of corruption and fraud in companies such as Volkswagen, Siemens, and Enron, as well as the public outrage that followed in the wake of these scandals, it is surprising to note that relatively little historical research on economic crime in the twentieth century has been conducted to date. Although neighboring disciplines such as law, economics, political science, and sociology offer attractive approaches to the phenomenon of economic crime, they reflect little on the continuous changes in how illegal and immoral behavior has been defined and understood in the business world since the late nineteenth century.
This lacuna is even more conspicuous, as the relatively well-established field of corruption research has demonstrated that a historicization of nomenclature and a dense description of transformations in economic practices can afford far-reaching insights into historical societal forms, including their structures, conflicts, and developmental processes.
The workshop "Economic Crime and the State in the 20th century" would like to help fill this lacuna. To this end, it will try to draw on some of the methods and aims worked out in the field of corruption research and apply them to the entire spectrum of individual phenomena subsumed under the rather diffuse collective name of "economic crime," including embezzlement, tax evasion, certain forms of corruption, investment and subsidy fraud, antitrust infringement, and industrial espionage. Conclusions regarding the historical development of persecution by the state and the accompanying socio-political discussions are widely lacking for most of these offenses. Moreover, this enumeration of very different forms of delinquency shows the need for a concretization and differentiation of the employed terms and concepts.
Focusing on a German-American comparison in transnational perspective, the workshop will especially address the following issues:
1. Which actors and institutions in industrialized countries have developed an awareness of economic crime as a new problem? Since when? To which discourses of moral, political, societal, and economic values have governmental and social actors referred? How and why have ideas about acting in a morally and legally correct fashion in the economic sphere changed?
2. What role has the media played in defining what should be considered economic crime? Public scandals that both illuminate and transmute the semantics of morality and the law will have to be a central issue of analysis.
3. What means have been employed by political institutions as well as private and state businesses in their reactions to economic crimes and the discourses surrounding them? A comparative perspective of the economic and political systems of (the Federal Republic of) Germany and the United States promises insights into the structural preconditions for certain forms of economic crime and approaches to combat them effectively, the differences and chronologies involved, and the transnational learning processes experienced by both the offenders and their pursuers.
4. All of these approaches will facilitate further reflections on the economic consequences of global networking of both organized crime and state prosecuting bodies.
Paper proposals are welcome internationally from both young and established scholars from different disciplines, including, but not limited to, business history, economic history, economics, sociology, political science, and law. The workshop, to be held in English, will focus on discussions of pre-circulated papers that are 5,000 to 6,000 words in length.
Proposals should include a paper abstract (two pages maximum) and a short curriculum vitae in English. Proposals must be submitted via email (preferably in pdf format) by January 14, 2011 to firstname.lastname@example.org
Expenses for travel and accommodation will be covered, though you are encouraged to defray organizing costs by soliciting funds from your home institution.
Dr. Mario Daniels
German Historical Institute
1607 New Hampshire Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20009
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