Tuesday, April 3rd, Daniela Russ presents: Owning energy: electricity markets and the load factor (1900-1930)

Please join us for our next meeting of the Money, Markets and Governance workshop, on Tuesday, April 3rd, at 5 – 6:30 PM, in classroom 401 in the Social Science Research Building.

Daniela Russ

PhD Student, Sociology, University of Bielfeld

Owning energy: electricity markets and the load factor (1900-1930)

Discussant: Georg Rilinger,
PhD Candidate, Sociology, University of Chicago

Abstract: Electrification figures prominently in the modernist theories of the early twentieth century. While this has often been stated, it remains still unclear how and why it took on this role. This paper explores the relation between power systems and the reflection on natural forces, industrial development, and societal progress developing in the first half of the twentieth century and later growing into full-fledged theories of energetic-economic development. To understand how electric power systems took on this role, we have to pay attention to their calculability. Two dimensions of electric power systems are important in that regard: Firstly, their peculiar technological mediation means that electricity is both determinable and universal and, secondly, the permanent coupling of production and demand enables the centralization of data gathering, processing, and system adaptation. The paper traces the historical development of electric power systems from arc-lighting to national grids with an emphasis on the technological and economic data that was produced by each system, and the ‘representations’ it thus enabled. Even though the paper seeks mainly to contribute to our historical and sociological understanding of energy, it can also shed light on broader questions in economic sociology, such as the relation between ‘technologically caged’ markets and capitalization, as well as the construction of theory from markets and markets from theory.

For questions or accessibility concerns please contact the coordinator at yanivr {at} uchicago {dot}

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