… me

My name is Dael A. Norwood. I’m a historian of nineteenth-century American political economy, in the world. You can find out more about me, my research, my teaching, and how to contact me over at my main page, https://daelnorwood.com/

the blog’s title

“Goose Commerce” is a (weak) pun on the early modern French concept of “la doux commerce” – the idea that commerce tends to make people more gentle in their manners, i.e. less likely to threaten each other with pointy or explody things, and so contribute to peace and progress. This concept was a truism among commercial men of the 19th century (my primary subjects). For more, see Albert O. Hirshman, The Passions and the Interests: political arguments for capitalism before its triumph (Princeton University Press, 1997; orig. 1977), esp. pp. 60-70

Also, I think geese are funny.

…the blog itself:

This blog is intended to be both a place to reflect on historical practice, and repository for the interesting flotsam and jetsam that comes out of of my research, but that doesn’t belong somewhere else. It is, as the kids say, an academic blog, not a (more interesting) blog by an academic. Someday I may develop a personality, but that may have to wait until after tenure.

As you’ll see from the very discontinuous posting schedule, I used this venue as a place to launch some of my early dissertation writing – which later became my book, Trading Freedom. More recent posts pertain (mainly) to a new project, which investigates the origins of the “businessman” as a potent political and cultural identity in the United States.

That all being said, perhaps the best explanation of what I’m after in this space comes from C. Wright Mills’s description of the file that every “intellectual craftsman” should keep (without, perhaps, his fear of modern life crushing the soul out of you). Which is a way of saying, most of what is here is for me; hopefully, though, you’ll find it of interest, too.

C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination (OUP, 2000; orig. 1959), pp.196-197 (the emphasis is mine):

Scholarship is a choice of how to live as well as a choice of career; whether he knows it or not, the intellectual workman forms his own self as he works toward the perfection of his craft

What this means is that you must learn to use your life experiences in your intellectual work: continually to examine and interpret it. … But how can you do this? One answer is: you must set up a file, which is, I suppose, a sociologist’s way of saying: keep a journal. Many creative writers keep journals; the sociologist’s need for systemic reflection demands it.

In such a file as I am going to describe, there is joined personal experience and professional activities, studies under way and studies planned. In this file, you, as an intellectual craftsman, will try to get together what you are doing intellectually and what you are experiencing as a person. Here you will not be afraid to capture ‘fringe thoughts’ …

By keeping an adequate file and thus developing self-reflective habits, you learn how to keep your inner world awake. Whenever you feel strongly about events or ideas you must try not to let them pass from your mind, but instead to formulate them for your files and in so doing draw out their implications … The file also helps you build up the habit of writing. … In developing the file, you can experiment as a writer and thus, as they say, develop your powers of expression. To maintain a file is to engage in the controlled experience.

(My thanks to the departed Aaron Swartz at Raw Thought, for inspiring me to read Mills more closely)