Digital Labor

Julia Ott


Julia Ott uses history to investigate Americans’ rather unique faith in laissez-faire capitalism, a faith now tested by ongoing financial turmoil and economic malaise. Ott’s book When Wall Street Met Main Street tells the story of how financial markets and institutions—commonly perceived as marginal and elitist at the beginning of the twentieth century—first came to be seen as the bedrock of American capitalism. It traces how investment in bonds and stock - once considered disreputable and dangerous — first become a mass practice in the first three decades of the twentieth century. When Wall Street Met Main Street won the 2013 Vincent J. DeSantis Prize for the Best Book in the History of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.
Ott asks why so much trust was placed in finance as the engine of economic growth and stability in the last thirty-odd years. She seeks to understand why recent attempts to repair the frayed social safety net have provoked such rabid anti-government, pro-business reactions from large segments of the public. These sentiments stand in marked contrast with the great reform movements of American history, which sought to reign in rampaging capitalism. Further, they repudiate the political-economic regime of the post-World War II period, a modern liberalism grounded in mass purchasing power, the self-financing corporation, the welfare state, and Keynesian economic policy.

Julia Ott co-edits the book series Columbia Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism for Columbia University Press.