Associated Publications

chicago studies in practices of meaning


In collaboration with the University of Chicago Press, 3CT has established a new interdisciplinary book series, Chicago Studies in Practices of Meaning. The series has distinctive theoretical goals, as signaled by its title. Following the so-called “cultural turn” the study of culture became a major preoccupation of nearly all disciplines in the social sciences – with the major exception of economics – and has given rise to the fledgling discipline, or quasi-discipline, of cultural studies. We adopt a rigorous interdisciplinary theoretical perspective, designated by our use of the terms “practice” and “meaning” rather than “culture,” as the latter has been used so promiscuously over the past two decades in both academic and popular discourse as to proliferate a host of unacknowledged ambiguities.

Our editors, who come from four different fields of social science: Anthropology (William Mazzarella and Kaushik Sunder Rajan), Sociology (Andreas Glaeser), History (William Sewell), and Political Science (Lisa Wedeen), are interested in the widest possible range of practices of meaning – in ritual, political theory, work, urban design, religion, shopping, social movements, music, economic exchange, science, leisure, kinship – which is to say, any arena or aspect of human life in which meanings are made. 3CT solicits distinguished scholarly manuscripts that share our methodological and epistemological commitments to innovation in interpretive social science, to probing interdisciplinary contact, and to work combining rigorous theoretical reflection with empirically rich accounts of local experience.

selected publications

nostalgia .jpg

Critical Historical Studies Journal



Critical Historical Studies is an interdisciplinary journal devoted to historical reflections on politics, culture, economy, and social life, edited by William Sewell (3CT Fellows) and Andrew Sartori (New York University). CHS features research on the implications of socio-economic transformations for cultural, political, and social change. In the broad tradition of Critical Theory, CHS will explore the complex connections between cultural form and socio-economic context and promote a reflexive awareness of the researcher’s own position in the history of global capitalist society.

Critical Historical Studies publishes monographic research articles, theoretical articles, review essays, and critical reflections on current cultural, political, and scholarly issues. The journal aims to foster interdisciplinary exchange among scholars across the entire range of the social sciences and humanities, and publishes work on all historical eras and regions of the world.

volume 6, number 1

Spring 2019

Comparing in Global Times: Between Extension and Incorporation

Judit Bodnár, Central European University


Globalization has complicated comparative research. What I call the connective and the integrative moments of globalization influence the comparative gesture differently; while one erodes the boundaries of the case, that is, of the empirical core of comparative research, the other makes comparison theoretically more plausible. Drawing on the heterogeneous epistemologies and histories of disciplines, which ultimately underlie passions for or against comparison, these two moments foster different intellectual endeavors—transnational and global approaches—often set up in opposition. I propose a more synthetic framework of oscillating comparison, which draws equally on the connective and integrative aspects of globalization, engaging the corresponding critical insights in a more productive dialogue. The article outlines a composite strategy that oscillates between different levels and forms of comparison and merges into an overarching framework the transnational approach (through case extension) and the global approach (through incorporated comparison) while expanding the practice of comparative research.

The Predestination of Capital: Projecting E. I. Du Pont de Nemours and Company into the New World

Martin Giraudeau, Sciences Po, Centre de Sociologie des Organisations


The article studies the role of entrepreneurial techniques in the capitalization of early industrial ventures. It focuses on the preparation and circulation of project proposals by the Du Pont de Nemours family, ahead of their transplantation to the United States: father Pierre Samuel’s 1797 plan for an agricultural colony and his son Irénée’s 1800 project for a gunpowder manufactory. The two men and the types of projects they proposed did not enjoy the same amount of credit in investor circles, leading them to rely on different territorialization techniques in their proposals. The father located the proposed colony in the geographical space of the United States to narrate a single and hesitant path into the future. The son relied on accounting simulations to prove that profits would ensue, whatever the circumstances, in the calculable space of American markets. His project was assigned not just a destination but also a destiny.

Structural Contingencies: Capitalist Constraints and Historical Contingency in the Rise and Fall of Pensions

Michael McCarthy, Marquette University


After World War II, collectively bargained private pensions were installed as an alternative to Social Security expansions. But these plans began to go into decline in the 1980s, when defined-contribution retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s, came to replace them. This article makes three arguments about this rise and fall to contribute toward a theory of structural contingency. First, in both episodes, state intervention into labor-management relations triggered policy changes in the private pension system. Second, policy makers were motivated to intervene because of a structural condition—namely, to manage perceived crises in capitalism. And third, the particular way they intervened and how their policy choices spurred pension marketization were driven by contingent historical circumstances. This article argues that structural constraints that inhere in capitalist democracies established a range of possible policy options available to policy makers, yet contingent and historical factors channeled policy selection within that range.

A Real State of Exception: Class Composition and Social Conflict during Portugal’s Carnation Revolution, 1974–1975

Ricardo Noronha, Instituto de História Contemporânea, Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas/Universidade Nova de Lisboa


This article addresses the topic of workers’ struggles in Portugal during the revolutionary process of 1974–75. Departing from a critical dialogue with classic social movements theory and the contentious politics research agenda, it is an attempt to formulate an alternative theoretical framework for the interpretation of social conflicts, inspired in reflections developed by Walter Benjamin and hypotheses elaborated within Italian workerism (operaismo). Instead of looking at collective action merely as a sideshow, or a consequence of processes taking place elsewhere, the article calls for a discussion on if and how social conflicts are able to shape the conditions under which “elites” compete and state authority is enforced, using the Portuguese Revolution as a field of inquiry into subjects such as agency, causality, sovereignty, and class.

“The Camphor Question Is in Reality the Savage Question”: Indigenous Pacification and the Transition to Capitalism in the Taiwan Borderlands (1895–1915)

Toulouse Antonin Roy, University of California, Los Angeles


This paper connects the sociology of science to discussions of academic freedom and scientific autonomy, asking how social science is shaped by politics and extra-scientific forces and how this understanding of the social determination of social science should inform social research and political critique. The focus is present-day American academic social science, particularly sociology. The first section reconstructs the relations between social science and political power in theoretical terms and argues that relative autonomy is a necessary condition for scientific knowledge and responsible political interventions by academic intellectuals. The second section constructs the space of scientists’ views of the proper relations between political power and social scientific work. The third section turns to the American university, focusing on actors and organizations that shape social research. The goal is to identify these major actors and organizations and to provide a framework for identifying past and present threats to scientific autonomy.