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Race, Empire and Economics: A seminar on Liberal International Theory

Bush House North East Wing, Strand Campus , London

29 Jan book-2592057_960_720

Contemporary economics speaks about trade in the familiar abstractions of comparative advantage, tracing the modern formulation of the case for free trade made in terms of welfare maximization to late-Victorian economists like W. Stanley Jevons and Alfred Marshall.

Though Jevons and Marshall did formalise theories that treat counties as if they are isolated individuals, with a set of production possibilities and demand curves that shape the possibilities for specialisation and exchange, a closer reading suggests that both took empire and the colonial division of labour for granted and that their thinking on trade was informed by colonial imaginaries of civilisation and race.

A close reading of early neoclassical economists generally reveals that they offer a variant of liberal international theory largely ignored by current work in international political theory. Ignoring these figures risks forming the canon of international theory according to contemporary disciplinary boundaries anachronistically extended back in time and reinforcing indefensible separations of economics and politics/culture.

This event is organized by the King’s Decolonizing Working Group.

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