• Faculty

  • Julia Ott

    Associate Professor of History


    Office Location
    N - 66 Fifth Avenue

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    Julia Ott


    The past offers tools for understanding our present circumstances. And, I believe, history can guide us in navigating the future, for making the choices that are necessary to create a fair and sustainable economy that supports the well-being of all.

    During my lifetime, American political culture has been distinguished by a pervasive belief that individual freedom is best guaranteed by freedom of the market. Over the course of the last forty years, the collective solutions that once nurtured the American middle class – including labor unions along with government and corporate-sponsored social provisions – drew increasing criticism for allegedly impeding the dynamic individualism of American capitalism. Government withdrew from social protection and provision. De-regulation and privatization swept across the domestic policy landscape. As a result, inequality increased.  And the well-being of American households was yoked ever more tightly to increasingly unregulated financial markets. These ideas, policies, and outcomes -- often labeled “neoliberalism” by scholars -- account, in part, for both the insurgency of Bernie Sanders and the victory of Donald Trump.

    I advance critical histories of capitalism with my scholarship, teaching, editoral work, publically-engaged writings, and through curatorial practice.  In 2019, the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons School of Design exhibited a site-specific installation of the Museum of Capitalism, which grew out of my teaching collaboration with the artist collective FICTILIS at Eugene Lang College.  I advised the Museum of the City of New York on their New York at its Core exhibit, which won an Annual Excellence in Exhibition Award from the American Alliance of Museums in 2018.  I've served as a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians and a consultant to documentary films. My writings for public audiences have been published in Public BooksThe NationDissent, and Public Seminar.  My media appearances include BBCNPRC-SPAN, and PBS, while my work has been featured in outlets including The New York TimesBusiness World, New DawnChinese National TelevisionRadio OpenSourceMajority Report with Sam SederBloomberg, and Who Makes the Cents?

    One of my favorite aspects of academic life is lending my support to other scholars and writers. I am fortunate to do as an advisor to MA and PhD candidates (in history, politics, sociology, and economics), a member of the Editorial Board of Dissent, a co-editor of the book series Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism published by Columbia University Press, and a founding co-editor of the journal Capitalism: A Journal of History and Economics, published by University of Pennsylvania Press. 

    Over the years, my work has received funding support from (among others) New America, the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, NJ), the Russell Sage Foundation (New York, NY).

    At present, I direct the Robert L. Heilbroner Center for Capitalism Studies at the New School for Social Research, which I co-founded with Dean Will Milberg, professor of economics, in 2014.

    Degrees Held

    BA, Princeton University, 1997

    PhD, Yale University, 2007

    Recent Publications


    Wealth Over Work: The Origins of Venture Capital, The Return of Inequality, and the Decline of Innovation (manuscript-in-progress)

    When Wall Street Met Main Street: The Quest for an Investors’ Democracy (Harvard University Press, 2011): winner of the Vincent DeSantis Prize for the Best Book on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era


    Selected Other Writings

    "'Keep Something for the Risk-Takers': How the Democrats Rebuilt Structural Racism and Hastened the Great Polarization, 1964-1987,"  in ed. Joseph E. Stiglitz and Rudiger von Armin, The Great Polarization: Economics, Institutions, and Policies in the Age of Inequality (forthcoming, Columbia University Press)

    Tax Preference as White Privilege in the United States, 1921-1965,” Capitalism: A Journal of History and Economics vol 1, no. 1 (Fall 2019)

    “What Was The Great Bull Market?: Value, Valuation, and Financial History” in ed. Sven Beckert and Christine Desan, The New History of American Capitalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018)

     “Words Can’t Do the Work For Us," Dissent (January 22, 2018)

    "Clinton Democrats Are Wrong. It's Not Wall Street that Needs to Be Unleashed - It's Government," Washington Post (October 31, 2017)

    How Tax Policy Created the 1%,” Dissent (April 18, 2017)

    Occupied Wall Street Journal,” Museum of the City of New York, November 2016

    Capitalism Studies: A Manifesto,” Public Seminar, April 17, 2014

    Slaves: The Capital That Made Capital,” Public Seminar, April 9, 2014

    "Solving the ‘Debt Question’,” New Labor Forum vol. 22 no. 1 (Spring 2013), co-authored with Louis Hyman

    “‘The Free and Open People’s Market’: Political Ideology and Retail Brokerage at the New York Stock Exchange, 1913-1933,” Journal of American History vol. 96 no. 1 (June 2009): 44-71.

    Research Interests

    History of capitalism, 20th century American history, financial history, labor history, neoliberalism, conservatism, consumer culture, women's and gender history, race and capitalism, art history and material culture

    Awards And Honors

    New Arizona Fellow, New America, 2019-2020

    Member, Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton, NJ, 2019-2020

    Faculty Research Grant, Provost's Office, The New School, 2019-2020

    Civic Liberal Arts Grant, Eugene Lang College for the Liberal Arts at the New School, 2018

    Faculty Opportunity Award, Eugene Lang College for the Liberal Arts, The New School, 2017

    Visiting Scholar, Institute for Public Knowledge, New York University, 2014-2016

    Grant Recipient, National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute on American Material Culture, Bard Graduate Center, July 2013

    Vincent DeSantis Prize for the Best Book on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, 2013

    Russell Sage Foundation Visiting Scholar, New York City, 2009-2010

    Interdisciplinary Seminar Grant, Tobin Project, 2009-2010


    Current Courses

    Independent Senior Project
    LHIS 4990, Spring 2023

    Independent Study
    LHIS 3950, Spring 2023

    Future Courses

    Independent Senior Project
    LHIS 4990, Fall 2023

    Independent Study
    LHIS 3950, Fall 2023

    Independent Study
    GHIS 6990, Fall 2023

    Slavery and Anti-Slavery
    GHIS 5104, Fall 2023

    Slavery and Anti-Slavery
    LHIS 4539, Fall 2023

    Past Courses

    Independent Senior Project
    LHIS 4990, Fall 2022

    Independent Study
    LHIS 3950, Fall 2022

    Independent Study
    GHIS 6990, Fall 2022

    Intro to Capitalism Studies
    LHIS 2049, Fall 2022

    Wealth & Power in US History
    GPOL 5087, Fall 2022

    Wealth & Power in US History
    GHIS 5322, Fall 2022

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