The Roepke Lecture in Economic Geography: "War, capitalism, and the making and unmaking of economic geographies" - Erica Schoenberger - Johns Hopkins University

Type: Panel
Sponsor Groups: Economic Geography Specialty Group, Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Empire Room, Omni, West
Organizers: James Murphy
Chairs: James Murphy


War is both incredibly destructive and strangely productive. Its impacts depend on how wars are fought (e.g., sieges, mechanized ground wars, drones) and how warriors are equipped. Cities are built, destroyed and rebuilt under the impetus of war. New industries are created. The kinds of resource required at one time are devalued and replaced by others at a later date. Here I will develop an argument about how and why warfare has been central to capitalism from its very origins to the present day and how, along the way, whole landscapes, cities and regional economies have been transformed in the process. I have two goals in making this argument. One is to demonstrate how instrumental warfare – and by extension the ruling classes who wage it – has been in creating the system we call capitalism and, although the ruling classes have changed, maintaining it. We commonly acknowledge that military industries play a major role in constructing and altering an economic landscape. My argument pushes further to propose that war itself played a foundational role in creating our economic system and our economic geography. My second goal is to urge economic geographers to engage more deeply and substantively with history. Economic geography is very (and reasonably) concerned with the present and the near future; history tends to be a backdrop sketched in to set the stage. I hope to show that a deeper understanding of how we got to the present may influence where we set our analytical sights in order to better understand where we are now and where we are going.

Keywords: War, capitalism, economic geography, economic history, urban history

The journal Economic Geography (at Clark University), in conjunction with the AAG Economic Geography Specialty Group, are sponsoring the 2019 Roepke Lecture to be given by Erica Schoenberger. Erica has has degrees from Stanford University and UC Berkeley and has spent her entire career at Johns Hopkins University in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering (DOGEE); lately changed to Environmental Health and Engineering with a joint appointment in Anthropology. A basic theme of her work has been "why don't we act in our own best interests even what we know what we should do?" This has led her to research on international investment, corporate culture and strategy, the mining industry and environmental history.

Dr. Dick Walker from the University of California Berkeley (emeritus) will serve as discussant.


Type Details Minutes
Panelist Erica Schoenberger Johns Hopkins University 20
Discussant Richard Walker University of California-Berkeley 10

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