The Rise of Illiberalism in an Economically Troubled World

Convenor: Mark Reiff


Liberalism today is in crisis.  Economic inequality is at historically high levels, social and economic mobility are at historically low levels, public education is in tatters, unionization is at all-time lows, racism and other invidious forms of discrimination are bubbling up all over, the courts are more and more becoming simply another political institution, and the environment has never been under greater threat. We seem closer now to a nuclear exchange than we have been at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.  The moral transformation that we thought had begun in the 1960s and worked toward ever since—as fitful and incomplete an endeavor as this may have been—has proved to be mostly an illusion.  The purpose of this workshop is to examine the turn to the illiberal right that is currently happening throughout the liberal capitalist world, to consider the relation between this and the underlying economic conditions that produced the Great Recession and are still with us in many ways today, and to suggest how those committed to liberal solutions to our problems should approach what may turn out to be an existential battle over the continuation of liberalism as we have known it.

Papers are accordingly invited on any of the following topics:

  • Battling illiberalism in an economically troubled world
  • Populism, elitism, and economic justice
  • Are the poor especially susceptible to propaganda and hate speech?
  • The relation between economic inequality and illiberalism
  • Democracy and economic inequality
  • Social media and the spread of illiberalism
  • The philosophical and economic roots of fascism
  • The relationship between the rise of the extreme right and economic neoliberalism
  • Making people better off in an increasingly illiberal world
  • The (supposed) conflict between liberty and equality
  • The rise of economic nationalism and the politics of trade and immigration
  • The role of the political philosopher when society tilts towards the extreme

Paper proposals are welcome from philosophers, political scientists, economists, and those from any other discipline associated with these issues, as well as from those working for governmental or non-governmental organizations.  Papers may contain a technical component but should be primarily normative and therefore accessible to non-economists.  Papers may and indeed are expected to be unpublished as of the date of the conference, but full drafts should be ready to be pre-circulated no later than 1 September.  Participants in the workshop will be expected to have read each paper in advance.  Multiple sessions of the workshop are contemplated, but each session of the workshop shall contain no more than three papers, no presentation by the author will be required, and each paper will therefore be discussed for at least fifty minutes.

To present a paper at the workshop, please submit a 300-word abstract for consideration to by Tuesday 15 May 2018.  Papers selected for inclusion in the workshop will be announced as soon as possible after the submission date.