Home > Centre for the Study of Human Rights > Events > 2014 > Economists As Political Philosophers: The Neoclassical Vision And Free Trade

Economists As Political Philosophers: The Neoclassical Vision And Free Trade

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  • Friday 14 March 2014
  • Speaker: Dr Robert Lepenies
  • Commentators: Dr Andrew Lang, Professor Leif Wenar
  • Chair: Dr Margot Salomon


LepeniesMy work aims to explain, reconstruct and contest the “neoclassical vision“ implicit in mainstream economic trade theory. Drawing on textbooks and analyzing arguments made by international economists from the perspective of liberal egalitarian philosophy, I show how the contemporary defense of free markets is linked to a specific normative ideal of the political and social good. I show how this vision developed through the intellectual history of free trade advocacy and how it finds its most convincing counter-vision in the work of John Rawls. I attempt to treat economics today as it has historically been: as a branch of political philosophy, and as inextricably normative.

The Speakers

Robert Lepenies is Max Weber Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Law department at the European University Institute in Florence. He holds a PhD in Governance from the Hertie School of Governance Berlin, an MSc (in IPE) from the LSE and a BA from the University of Oxford. He was a Fulbright-Schuman Fellow at Yale University and is co-founder and member of the steering board of Academics Stand Against Poverty (Germany).

Andrew Lang is an Associate Professor (Reader) at LSE, teaching Public International Law with a specialty in International Economic Law. He has a combined BA/LLB from the University of Sydney, and his PhD is from the University of Cambridge. From 2004-6, Dr Lang was a Junior Research Fellow at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge. 

Leif Wenar holds the Chair of Ethics at King’s College London. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Stanford and a PhD from Harvard having studied under John Rawls, Robert Nozick and T.M. Scanlon. He has been a Visiting Professor at the Princeton University Center for Human Values; a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University School of Philosophy; and a Fellow of the Program on Justice and the World Economy at The Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, among others.

Margot Salomon is Director of the Laboratory for Advanced Research on the Global Economy at LSE’s Centre for the Study of Human Rights and Associate Professor in the Law Department. LAB provides a hub for creative work across disciplines on theoretical, normative, as well as applied research central to concerns around justice under conditions of globalisation. Margot specialises in international human rights law and global economic justice and has published and consulted widely on the topic. She holds a BA, MA (UVA), LLM (UCL) and a PhD (LSE).