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Neoliberalism and Empire: Latin American and East Central European Perspectives - 3 March 2021

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In Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism (Harvard University Press, 2018) Quinn Slobodian challenges our preconceptions of neoliberalism as being about the self-regulating market and reducing the state to a minimum.

‘The neoliberal project, he argues, focused on designing institutions—not to liberate markets but to encase them, to inoculate capitalism against the threat of democracy, and to reorder the world after empire as a space of competing states in which borders fulfill a necessary function.’

Slobodian also traces the post-colonial context in which neoliberalism was born. The original neoliberals in the 1930s struggled with the nationalisms engulfing central Europe after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, seeking to construct international institutions that would break the links between political citizenship and economic ownership in the newly-independent states.

And when, in the wake of decolonization, countries in the Global South sought to develop a New International Economic Order, the neoliberals, as they grew in power, lobbied international financial institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank to discipline them away from nationalisations, planning and social justice.

This seminar focuses on the interrelationship between neoliberalism and empire, with the Hungarian intellectual historian Balázs Trencsényi probing neoliberalism’s central European roots and the Brazilian historian of imperialism Virginia Fontes exploring the Latin American dimension.

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