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Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics


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Speaker(s): Dr Daniel Stedman Jones, Professor Mark Pennington, Professor Lord Skidelsky
Chair: Professor Stuart Corbridge

Recorded on 16 January 2013 in Old Theatre, Old Building.

How did American and British policymakers become so enamoured with free markets, deregulation, and limited government? Based on archival research and interviews with leading participants in the movement, Daniel Stedman Jones has traced the ascendancy of neoliberalism from the academy of interwar Europe to supremacy under Reagan and Thatcher and in the decades since. He contends that there was nothing inevitable about the victory of free-market politics. Far from being the story of the simple triumph of right-wing ideas, the neoliberal breakthrough was contingent on the economic crises of the 1970s and the acceptance of the need for new policies by the political left. In his lecture he will describe neoliberalism's road to power, beginning in interwar Europe, then shifting its centre of gravity after 1945 to the United States, especially to Chicago and Virginia, where it was developed into an uncompromising political message, communicated through a transatlantic network of think tanks, businessmen, politicians, and journalists held together by Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. A discussion for anyone who wants to understand the history behind the Anglo-American love affair with the free market, as well as the origins of the current economic crisis.

Daniel Stedman Jones is a barrister in London. He was educated at the University of Oxford and at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a PhD in history. He has worked as a policy adviser for the New Opportunities Fund and as a researcher for Demos. His latest book is Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics.

Mark Pennington is Professor of Public Policy and Political Economy, King's College, University of London, prior to which he spent eleven years at Queen Mary, University of London. He holds a PhD from the London School of Economics. Mark's work lies at the intersection of politics, philosophy and economics with a particular emphasis on the classical liberal tradition. His latest book, Robust Political Economy (2011: Cheltenham, Edward Elgar) examines challenges to classical liberalism derived from neo-classical economics, communitarian political theory and egalitarian ethics. From January 2013 Mark will be the European Editor of the Review of Austrian Economics.

Robert Skidelsky is Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick. His three-volume biography of the economist John Maynard Keynes (1983, 1992, 2000) received numerous prizes, and he recently published Keynes: The Return of the Master.

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