Carl Gershenson is a postdoctoral fellow at Washington University in St. Louis. He received his Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard University in 2018. He studies the relationship between market, state, and society using quantitative and historical methods.
His dissertation asks why the corporation transformed from a quasi-public instrument of governance into a private market actor in the century after American independence. This was an era of waxing democracy and populism, yet it witnessed the erosion of social controls over the corporate form and the birth of the preeminent vehicle of private capitalism. Having created a unique dataset that covers every business incorporated by state legislatures during the antebellum period, he performs longitudinal fixed-effect analyses that show Democrats chartered corporations in such a way that made them less threatening to the working class: corporations were made smaller, more common, and more accessible to artisans of middling wealth. Fatefully, the Democratic restructuring of the corporation helped to dampen opposition to business corporations in the decades before rapid industrialization allowed giant corporations to dominate the economy.
As a postdoctoral fellow at Washington University in Saint Louis, Carl is collaborating closely with Tim Bartley on a project investigating the structure of the globalized economy. In an effort to transcend the “methodological nationalism” imposed on most quantitative studies of the global economy, they are assembling a medium-n data collection project on global production networks. These data will facilitate the analysis not only of the spatial structure of the global economy, but also the transnational relationships through which rules and standards for industries are transmitted along supply chains and ultimately implemented in diverse local contexts.
Carl has published on a variety of other topics, including corporate democracy and securities law, eviction and urban labor markets (with Matthew Desmond), and the distribution of political activities and city services across Boston neighborhoods (with Jeremy Levine).