Elizabeth Anderson, "The Great Reversal: How Neoliberalism Turned the Economic Aspirations of Liberalism Upside Down"


On September 21, 2018, CEHV hosted its third installment of the Distinguished Lecture Series with Elizabeth Anderson, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies at the University of Michigan. Professor Anderson has written extensively on democratic theory, equality in political philosophy and American law, racial integration, the ethical limits of markets, theories of value and rational choice (alternatives to consequentialism and economic theories of rational choice), the philosophies of John Stuart Mill and John Dewey, social epistemology, and feminist epistemology and philosophy of science. Professor Anderson is the author of Values in Ethics and Economics (Harvard UP, 1993), The Imperative of Integration (Princeton UP, 2010), and Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (And Why We Don't Talk About It) (Princeton UP, 2017). Professor Anderson designed and was the first Director of the Program in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at University of Michigan, and in the summer of 2018, she was named a Progress Medal Laureate by the Society for Progress. 

In her lecture, Professor Anderson challenged the common assumption that contemporary economic policies reflect values and principles found in classical liberal thought. Before the Industrial Revolution, liberals advanced ideals of private property and free markets explicitly designed to vindicate the claims of workers against passive private property owners. Today, neoliberal policymakers, under the guise of these same liberal ideals, place the interests of capital owners ahead of the interests of workers. Professor Anderson discussed why this reversal took place, and demonstrated the resulting contradictions in neoliberal ideology.  Professor Anderson also discussed how these contradictions can help us make sense of the current "populist" political crises facing modern Western liberal democracy. 

Professor Anderson's lecture and the Q&A were recorded and posted on our YouTube channel. Please note that the first half of the video contains Professor Anderson's slides during her lecture, in lieu of footage of her speaking. The video is below: