This conference is timed to mark the 30th anniversary of the publication of Giovanni Arrighi and Fortunata Piselli’s “Capitalist Development in Hostile Environments: Feuds, Class Struggles and Migrations in a Peripheral Region of Southern Italy“.
Published in 1987, the essay confronts the question of capitalist (under) development in Calabria in the 19th and 20th centuries; in the process, it also makes a major intervention into debates about the origins and dynamics of capitalism. “Capitalist Development in Hostile Environments” puts forward the thesis that three different developmental paths emerged side-by-side within Calabria: the “Junker” Road with large latifundia and intense class conflict (in the Crotonese), the “American” or Farmer Road with strong feuds (in the Piana di Gioia Tauro), and the “Swiss” Road, where mass migration went hand-in-hand with a decline in both class conflicts and feuds (in the Cosentino). While these three paths led to core status elsewhere (Prussia, the United States, Switzerland), in Calabria all three paths were associated with peripheralization. At the same time, however, these three roads produced very different outcomes in terms of human welfare.
We can see in “Capitalist Development in Hostile Environments” the accumulation of theoretical and methodological insights gained across three decades and three continents – in particular, Arrighi’s engagement with social anthropologists in Africa during the 1960s, his participation in and analysis of social mobilizations in Italy in the late 1960s and early 1970s, followed by seven years of teaching and research at the University of Calabria, and, finally, his collaboration with world-systems scholars in the United States in the 1980s. Building on these foundations, the essay confronts a range of debates on the question of capitalism, underdevelopment, migration, class struggle and globalization.
“Capitalist Development in Hostile Environments” has strongly influenced scholars engaged in research in various contexts around the world. Despite this, and despite the fact that Arrighi himself considered it to be one of his most important works, this essay has, until now, not been published in Italian. The first Italian edition (Donzelli 2017) will be released on the occasion of this conference.
To mark both, the 30th anniversary of the English language version and the release of the Italian publication, the University of Calabria will host an international conference, which will take place from June 6 to 8, 2017. The goal of the conference is to stimulate critical reflection on the theoretical, conceptual and methodological contributions of the essay, as well as the key questions and debates that it confronts.
The conference is organized by the Department of Humanities and the Department of Political and Social Sciences of the University of Calabria, along with The Arrighi Center for Global Studies at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (USA).
The conference will be structured in three parts:
The first part will see the participation of scholars who collaborated with Arrighi at various points in his intellectual journey, including: Samir Amin; Perry Anderson; Maurice Aymard; Ada Cavazzani; Pietro Fantozzi; Gad Lerner; Romano Madera; Luisa Passerini; Fortunata Piselli; Jane Schneider; Peter Schneider; Giordano Sivini; Immanuel Wallerstein.
The second part will be devoted to applications of the “Calabria paradigm” to different regions of the world including China, Colombia, Iran, the former Soviet Union and South Africa.
The third part will be organized along thematic lines and is open to contributions solicited through this Call for Papers.
Within the general problematic of capitalist development in hostile environments, we ask prospective participants to read (or re-read) “Capitalist Development in Hostile Environments“ and to engage in a critical dialogue with the text. The proposed contributions may focus on any geographical region or historical period and should engage with one or more of the following themes:
1) the multiple paths of capitalist development: proletarianization, migration and the labor market;
2) processes of “peripheralization”: global structure and local actors, unequal exchange, accumulation and dispossession;
3) social conflict and antisystemic movements;
4) the interaction between history, geography, ecology and social relations in capitalist development and underdevelopment;
5) peripheries in the core in contrast to peripheries in the periphery;
6) hostility, resistance and alternatives to capitalist development;
7) rural transformation and new agrarian questions;
8) rethinking development in 21st century Calabria.
Abstracts of 500 words (in English or Italian), accompanied by a brief curriculum vitae, should be sent by February 5, 2017 to the following email address:
In the subject heading include: “Capitalist Development + Your Last Name”.
The Scientific/Organizing Committee will review the abstracts and notify applicants of the results by March 5, 2017. Those presenting papers will submit a draft of their paper by 15 May.
The conference is free and open to the public.
 Published in Review (Fernand Braudel Center), 10, 4, 1987