Late Soviet Britain: why materialist utopias fail

Hosted by the European Institute

In-person and online public event (MAR.1.04, Marshall Building)


Dr Abby Innes

Dr Abby Innes

Rafael Behr

Rafael Behr


Professor Simon Glendinning

Professor Simon Glendinning

Join us for the launch of Abby Innes's new book, Late Soviet Britain: Why Materialist Utopias Fail.

Why has the United Kingdom, historically one of the strongest democracies in the world, become so unstable? What changed?

In Late Soviet Britain Abby Innes argues that a major part of the answer lies in the transformation of the British state. The book shows how Britain championed radical economic liberalisation only to weaken and ultimately break its own governing institutions. The crisis of democracy in rich countries has brought forward many urgent analyses of neoliberal capitalism, but Abby Innes explores for the first time how the 'governing science' in Leninist and neoliberal revolutions fails for many of the same reasons. The Thatcherite - or ‘neoliberal’ - project of withdrawing the state from the market rests on the same fallacy as Soviet planning: that a self-regulating materialist utopia is possible. The practical result in both systems is stifling bureaucratic overreach, economic stagnation, and ultimately political and state failure, only this time around the crisis is of liberal democracy. Soviet and neoliberal regimes may have been utterly opposed in their political values, but as Abby explains, when we grasp the kinship in their closed-system, deterministic forms of economic reasoning and their strategies for government, we may better understand the causes of state failure in Britain today, in what remains an inescapably open-system reality.

Meet our Speakers and Chair 

Abby Innes (@innes_abby) is Associate Professor of Political Economy in the European Institute at LSE. She has published widely on the political economy of Central Europe and drew on this background for the comparison of Soviet and neoliberal economic regimes in Late Soviet Britain. In more recent years Abby has focused her research and teaching on the political economy of the green transition in Europe..

Rafael Behr (@rafaelbehr) is a journalist and political columnist for the Guardian. He is the author of the book Politics: A Survivor's Guide: How to stay Engaged without Getting Enraged. 

Simon Glendinning (@lonanglo) is Head of the European Institute and Professor in European Philosophy at LSE. His current research interests include the question of European identity. He is the author of Europe: A Philosophical History – Beyond Modernity.

More about this event

The European Institute (@LSEEI) is a centre for research and graduate teaching on the processes of integration and fragmentation within Europe.

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Podcast & Video

A podcast of this event is available to download from Late Soviet Britain.

A video of this event is available to watch at Late Soviet Britain

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