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From the New Liberalism to Neoliberalism

05.15.2017 – 05.16.2017

Event Summary

Where did “neoliberalism” come from? Much contemporary scholarship has focused on the character and construction of the neoliberal order in which we live today. Yet little of it has explored its paradoxical emergence from a polity that was organized on nearly antithetical principles and politics. In the first half of the twentieth century, a new kind liberalism very different from its classical antecedent rose to prominence within the United States. Progressives built a robust public sphere through a revitalized democratic politics by pursuing a positive conception of liberty that addressed the insecurities, inequalities, and inequities of modern life. By mid-century that project had come to dominate American life and much of the “free world” Americans sought to direct. But within a decade or two it had begun to falter, and by the end of the century a neoliberal political project dedicated to its demolition was ascendant. This conference probed the sources of that collapse, searching for the causes of a reconfiguration that even the greatest paladins of the liberal “Establishment” could not have envisioned before the 1970s.

The conference was sponsored by the Problem of the Democratic State in US History research project at the Neubauer Collegium.