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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.”


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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