october, 2020

15oct3:30 pm5:00 pmContinental Philosophy Seminar SeriesCommerce and peace in Albert Hirschman and Friedrich Hayek3:30 pm - 5:00 pm Audience:Alumni,Future students,General Public,Government departments & agencies,International students,Recent graduates,Researchers,Staff,Students,Teachers

Event Details

In his classic 1977 book The Passions and the Interests, Albert Hirschman identified a distinctive argument for the pacifying effects of markets. On Hirschman’s telling, the thesis that commerce was a source of “sweetness, softness, calm and gentleness” (douceur) appealed to Europeans who longed to be free of the warring passions of the sixteenth-century Wars of Religion. In the wake of the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars and the social dislocation of the industrial revolution, he argues, the thesis was eclipsed by anxieties that, far from promoting morality and peace, the market was undermining moral virtues and producing widespread anomie, atomization and class conflict. By the twentieth-century, Hirschman concludes, no observer could still subscribe to the earlier hopeful vision of the market.

This paper shows, in contrast, that, in the inauspicious circumstances of the early twentieth-century, neoliberalism was founded on an attempt to revive the argument that an unrestrained competitive market would replace the violence and coercion of political passions with peaceful, mutually-beneficial, voluntary relations. My focus is on the Austrian neoliberal thinker Friedrich Hayek, who described the market as a “catallaxy” – a term derived from the Greek verb katallatein which meant both to exchange, and “to turn from an enemy into a friend”. I show that, while Hirschman believed that the neoclassical emphasis on perfect competition had deprived economists of the capacity to argue for the pacifying function of commercial relations, Hayek’s own critique of neoclassical accounts of competition was tied to his attempt to revive the earlier doux commerce thesis.

Speaker Profile

Jessica Whyte

Scientia Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of New South Wales

Associate Professor Jessica Whyte is a political theorist whose work integrates political philosophy, intellectual history and political economy to analyse contemporary forms of sovereignty, human rights, humanitarianism and militarism. Her work has been published in a range of fora including Contemporary Political Theory; Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism and Development; Law and Critique; Political Theory; South Atlantic Quarterly, and Theory and Event. She is the author of Catastrophe and Redemption: The Political Thought of Giorgio Agamben, (SUNY 2013) and The Morals of the Market: Human Rights and the Rise of Neoliberalism (Verso, 2019). She is an editor of the journal Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism and Development.

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(Thursday) 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm