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 Research Projects at the MPIfG

Insuring Capitalism: The Political Economy of the Private Insurance Industry

Sebastian Kohl

The private insurance industry, and the life insurance industry in particular, is a central institution of capital accumulation within a country’s financial sector. Not only has insurers’ risk coverage accompanied capitalist activities since the rise of capitalism, but insurance assets have also been an important driver of the concentration of patient capital available for investments in industry, housing, infrastructure, and government debt. OECD countries have historically developed different levels, institutional forms, and regulations of the private insurance sector since the late 19th century. This historical-comparative project enquires into the causes and consequences of countries’ different trajectories in the private insurance sector, with a particular focus on life insurance. It combines historical case studies with quantitative analyses of long-term developments. The project complements existing research in historical and financial sociology that has focused much more on banks or states as financial actors and enriches welfare state research with its strong focus on public insurance. Finally, it promises to shed light on how a modern conception of time and risk became institutionalized as a field of economic activity. Project duration: October 2017 to September 2021.

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