Plenary Talk: The Origins of Today’s Billionaire-Funded Radical Right and the Crisis of American Democracy

The Department of Politics invites you to join Professor Nancy MacLean as she traces the history of the capitalist radical right’s thought in the United States, outlining how it informed campaigns to privatize everything from public education to Social Security. She begins her story in the 1950s, as the civil rights movement is fighting to desegregate the public schools, and follows the career of the Nobel Prize-winning political economist, James McGill Buchanan, as he connects with various wealthy libertarians, most particularly Charles Koch. It was Buchanan who taught Koch that for capitalism to thrive, democracy must be enchained. And it is the Koch network’s strategic application of Buchanan’s thinking that has produced today’s relentless efforts to eliminate unions, suppress voting, stop action on climate change, and alter the Constitution.

Workshop from 10:30 am-12:00 pm in S802 Ross Bldg. Professor MacLean will also be leading a Workshop where she will discuss how to pay attention to the history and political economy of the U.S. South and the ways this process is significant in understanding the emergence and influence of the Koch political project.  Attending to these two, MacLean argues, complicates the literatures on neoliberalism, American liberal democracy and the libertarian movement. Engaging with the writings of James Buchanan and the Virginia School of political economy that has so shaped the operational strategy and endgame of Charles Koch and his allies, MacLean shows us how these intellectual trajectories inform and shape the present intellectual and political moment.

Nancy MacLean, William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University, is author of the National Book Award Finalist, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, and award-winning author of Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan, and Freedom is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace.

To view the full-sized poster, click here:  Nancy MacLean Plenary Talk and Workshop 8 Jan 2018 (PDF)

Coming Tuesday 27 February … “Dilemmas of Democracy” with Professor Mel Cappe, University of Toronto. The third speaker in our Engaging Democracy Series will speak to the failings of referenda, the inadequacies of direct democracy and the pitfalls of majority rule.  Brexit, Trump and the tyranny of the majority.