• Faculty

  • Julia Ott

    Associate Professor of History


    Office Location
    N - 66 Fifth Avenue

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    Julia Ott


    The past offers tools for understanding our present circumstances. And, I believe, history can guide us in navigating the future, for making the choices that are necessary to create a fair and sustainable economy that supports the well-being of all.

    Why is wealth concentrated so heavily among white households in the United States?  Why Wealth Is White answers this question by charting the furtive, decades-long campaign by white supremacists in Congress to shore up the racial wealth gap -- and the power of white wealth -- with tax breaks for investors and investment.

    My other current manuscript-in-progess, What Was Venture Capital?, challenges our myths about venture capital by exploring their origins.  The concept first emerged in reaction to the New Deal.  Over the next half-century, beliefs about the centrality of venture capital for innovation, jobs, and growth shaped economic policy and corporate behavior and transformed the American financial system.  Concerns about venture capital – voiced from all across the political spectrum  – gradually re-oriented American political culture in a neoliberal direction, in favor of investors and the wealthy.  The result was the less innovative and far more unequal economy that we live with today.

    I advance critical histories of capitalism with my scholarship, teaching, editoral work, publically-engaged writings, and through support of curatorial practice.  In 2019, the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons School of Design exhibited a site-specific installation of the Museum of Capitalism, which grew out of my teaching collaboration with the artist collective FICTILIS at Eugene Lang College.  I advised the Museum of the City of New York on their New York at its Core exhibit, which won an Annual Excellence in Exhibition Award from the American Alliance of Museums in 2018.  I've served as a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians and a consultant to documentary films. My writings for public audiences have been published in Public BooksThe NationDissent, and Public Seminar.  My media appearances include BBCNPRC-SPAN, and PBS, while my work has been featured in outlets including The New York TimesBusiness World, New DawnChinese National TelevisionRadio OpenSourceMajority Report with Sam SederBloomberg, and Who Makes the Cents?

    One of my favorite aspects of academic life is lending my support to other scholars and writers. I am fortunate to do as an advisor to MA and PhD candidates (in history, politics, sociology, and economics), a member of the Editorial Board of Dissent, a co-editor of the book series Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism published by Columbia University Press, a founding co-editor of the journal Capitalism: A Journal of History and Economics published by University of Pennsylvania Press, and a founding co-Director of the Robert L. Heilbroner Center for Capitalism Studies at The New School.

    Over the years, my work has received funding support from (among others) New America, the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, NJ), the Russell Sage Foundation (New York, NY).


    Degrees Held

    BA, Princeton University, 1997

    PhD, Yale University, 2007

    Recent Publications


    Why Wealth Is White (manuscript-in-progess)

    What Was Venture Captial? (manuscript-in-progress)

    When Wall Street Met Main Street: The Quest for an Investors’ Democracy (Harvard University Press, 2011): winner of the Vincent DeSantis Prize for the Best Book on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era


    Selected Other Writings

    "Shared Terrain?" [special forum on neoliberalism], Dissent (Fall 2023)

    "Why Is Wealth White?"Southern Cultures (Winter 2022)

    "'Keep Something for the Risk-Takers': How the Democrats Rebuilt Structural Racism and Hastened the Great Polarization, 1964-1987,"  in ed. Joseph E. Stiglitz and Rudiger von Armin, The Great Polarization: Economics, Institutions, and Policies in the Age of Inequality (Columbia University Press, 2022)

    "While Tax-Breaks Favoring the Rich May Appear Race-Neutral, They're Not," Washington Post (July 15, 2021)

    Tax Preference as White Privilege in the United States, 1921-1965,” Capitalism: A Journal of History and Economics vol 1, no. 1 (Fall 2019)

    “What Was The Great Bull Market?: Value, Valuation, and Financial History” in ed. Sven Beckert and Christine Desan, The New History of American Capitalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018)

     “Words Can’t Do the Work For Us" [special forum on neoliberalism], Dissent (January 22, 2018)

    "Clinton Democrats Are Wrong. It's Not Wall Street that Needs to Be Unleashed - It's Government," Washington Post (October 31, 2017)

    How Tax Policy Created the 1%,” Dissent (April 18, 2017)

    Occupied Wall Street Journal,” Museum of the City of New York, November 2016

    Capitalism Studies: A Manifesto,” Public Seminar, April 17, 2014

    Slaves: The Capital That Made Capital,” Public Seminar, April 9, 2014

    "Solving the ‘Debt Question’,” New Labor Forum vol. 22 no. 1 (Spring 2013), co-authored with Louis Hyman

    “‘The Free and Open People’s Market’: Political Ideology and Retail Brokerage at the New York Stock Exchange, 1913-1933,” Journal of American History vol. 96 no. 1 (June 2009): 44-71.

    Research Interests

    History of capitalism, race and capitalism, 20th century American history, financial history, labor history, neoliberalism, conservatism, consumer culture, women's and gender history, inequality, art history and material culture

    Awards And Honors


    Arnhold Forum Fellow, Henry H. Arnhold Forum on Global Challenges, "Understanding White Supremacy: U.S. and Global Perspectives," Provost's Office, The New School, 2022-24

    Faculty Opportunity Award, Eugene Lang College for the Liberal Arts, The New School, 2017, 2022-24

    New Arizona Fellow, New America, 2019-2020

    Member, Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton, NJ, 2019-2020

    Faculty Research Grant, Provost's Office, The New School, 2019-2020

    Civic Liberal Arts Grant, Eugene Lang College for the Liberal Arts at the New School, 2018

    Visiting Scholar, Institute for Public Knowledge, New York University, 2014-2016

    Grant Recipient, National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute on American Material Culture, Bard Graduate Center, July 2013

    Vincent DeSantis Prize for the Best Book on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, 2013

    Russell Sage Foundation Visiting Scholar, New York City, 2009-2010

    Interdisciplinary Seminar Grant, Tobin Project, 2009-2010


    Future Courses

    Consumer Culture
    LHIS 3052, Spring 2025

    Independent Senior Project
    LHIS 4990, Fall 2024, Spring 2025

    Independent Study
    GHIS 6990, Fall 2024

    Independent Study
    LHIS 3950, Fall 2024, Spring 2025

    GHIS 6991, Spring 2025

    Masters Thesis Seminar
    GHIS 6500, Spring 2025

    Senior Thesis Seminar
    LHIS 4900, Fall 2024

    Wealth & Power in US History
    GHIS 5322, Fall 2024

    Wealth and Power
    LHIS 4533, Fall 2024

    Past Courses

    Independent Senior Project
    LHIS 4990, Fall 2023, Spring 2024

    Independent Study
    GHIS 6990, Fall 2023

    Independent Study
    LHIS 3950, Fall 2023, Spring 2024

    GHIS 6991, Spring 2024

    Intro to Capitalism Studies
    LHIS 2049, Spring 2024

    Masters Thesis Seminar
    GHIS 6500, Spring 2024

    Slavery and Anti-Slavery
    LHIS 4539, Fall 2023

    Slavery and Anti-Slavery
    GHIS 5104, Fall 2023

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