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Out of Stock

The Warehouse in the History of Capitalism

Out of Stock

The Warehouse in the History of Capitalism

In Out of Stock, Dara Orenstein delivers an ambitious and engrossing account of that most generic and underappreciated site in American commerce and industry: the warehouse. She traces the progression from the nineteenth century’s bonded warehouses to today’s foreign-trade zones, enclaves where goods can be simultaneously on US soil and off US customs territory. Orenstein contends that these zones—nearly 800 of which are scattered across the country—are emblematic of why warehouses have begun to supplant factories in the age of Amazon and Walmart. Circulation is so crucial to the logistics of how and where goods are made that it is increasingly inseparable from production, to the point that warehouses are now some of the most pivotal spaces of global capitalism. Drawing from cultural geography, cultural history, and political economy, Out of Stock nimbly demonstrates the centrality of warehouses for corporations, workers, cities, and empires.

352 pages | 93 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2019

Architecture: American Architecture

Economics and Business: Economics--History

Geography: Economic Geography

History: American History, History of Ideas


“Orenstein’s brilliant book must be read widely. Through meticulous research into the rise of special zones that allow offshore economic activity to take place within US territory, Orenstein challenges our most basic assumptions about national space and capitalist time, about the infrastructures of law and the border, and about violence. This landmark historical work offers tremendous empirical insight into conceptual questions at the center of contemporary debate.”

Deborah Cowen, University of Toronto

“I want to thank Dara Orenstein for a wonderful exploration of modern political economy. Out of Stock is an unusually smart, highly engaged, and fittingly sophisticated account of capital’s morphologies over the past two hundred years, composed, what’s more, with an attention to style that reminds us that scholarship is as much a literary genre as an empirical effort, and that these can and should complement each other.”

Michael Zakim, Tel Aviv University

“By focusing on the history of the warehouse, Orenstein has excavated the surprising historical origins of a crucial cog in contemporary capitalism, without which today’s global supply chains and assembly lines would not be possible. Truly interdisciplinary and beautifully constructed, Out of Stock is a one-of-a-kind book.”

Jonathan Levy, University of Chicago

“Recommended. The book is fascinating in its capacity to find the poetic in the prosaic.”


"Full of interesting insights that will reward patient readers..."

Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"This book could not have been timelier. In a moment when the restricted mobility of much of the world's population has meant the inverse for the logistics industry, Dara Orenstein has given us a deeply impressive genealogy of the warehouse as spatial form. . . . Out of Stock draws on an array of federal and municipal archives and newspapers, as well as interdisciplinary theoretical frameworks, especially from Marxist political economy, radical geography, and cultural theory."

Journal of Social History

"Orenstein’s book provides an important contribution to the intellectual and cultural history of foreign trade zones and warehousing. . . . The book stands out for its dexterity with such a wide variety of subjects, methods, theories, and disciplines. Its sharp use of visual evidence is a particular delight, not merely illustrating main points, but making them. From advertising, film, architecture, and literature to government publications, corporate reports, policy revisions, and Congressional debates, it embodies the interdisciplinary approach one would hope for from an American studies scholar."

Planning Perspectives

"Orenstein is the best possible guide for understanding the bureaucratic mazes behind warehousing because she is so effective at finding meaning in ideas that others might ignore."

Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

"Dara Orenstein’s Out of Stock: The Warehouse in the
History of Capitalism
is equal parts history of political economy, geog-
raphy of capitalism, and cultural history of liberalism before and after
the American Century . . . Orenstein’s account helps us make sense of post-Fordist production and capitalism in our own
Second Gilded Age. Historians of capitalism, as well as cultural and economic historians of twentieth-century America will find the book to be valuable."

The New England Journal of History

Table of Contents

Introduction: “My Brain Hurt Like a Warehouse”

Chapter One: Flow, or Fixity in Motion: The Warehouse
Chapter Two: Security and Securitization: The Bonded Warehouse
Chapter Three: Imperium in Imperio: The Freihafen, the Zollverein, and the Empire of Logistics
Chapter Four: What We Talk about When We Talk about Manufacturing: The Foreign-Trade Zone
Chapter Five: “Plant Your Plant at a Home Away from Home, at Home”: The Subzone

Conclusion: Free Shipping!


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