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Workshop "Peripheral Liberalism. Market economists and the liberal script outside the West, 1970-2020"

Oct 06, 2022 - Oct 07, 2022

This workshop is organised by the SCRIPTS research group "Peripheral Liberalism" and will take place at the Freie Universität Berlin.

About the Workshop

Economic reform debates and the political impact of pro-market economists in countries outside the Cold War Western alliance are undergoing revision by scholars of political economy, global history, and neoliberalism. Most recent research now firmly places intellectual and economic changes within global shifts in economics and economic thought that began in the 1970s, thus moving away from a fixation on 1989 and the arrival of foreign advisors as external promoters of a liberal script created in the West. Forms of ‘peripheral liberalism’, a range of ideas on market- and individual rights-based transformation, emerged in most parts of the world and would – to varying degrees – have momentous effects on economic reforms and political change.

For our two-day workshop, to be held in Berlin in October 2022, we invite contributions that help us stake out the emerging research field of the global history of economic transformation since the 1970s. We welcome papers on the role of (neo-)liberal thought and self-professed liberal intellectual and political figures in countries that belonged to the second and third worlds during the Cold War. We are particularly interested in primary source-based contributions assessing cross-border interaction between economists, intellectuals, and politicians from different parts of the non-Western world.

The workshop is organised by members of the Junior Research Group "Peripheral Liberalism": Dr Tobias Rupprecht; Alice Trinkle; Kevin Axe; Maximiliano Jara; George Payne.

About the Junior Research Group "Peripheral Liberalism"

The liberal script has been contested with a particular vengeance in (former) state socialist countries. Political leaders and like-minded pundits from Hungary to Russia and China have sought political legitimacy through the explicit rejection of liberalism as a Western imposition during the turbulent transformation of the 1990s. ‘Peripheral Liberalism’ assesses the emergence of a liberal script in socialist countries and questions this Western-imposition narrative, which also permeates much of the literature on the ‘transition’ of Eastern Europe, and contemporary political commentary. We revisit the debates on economic and political reform in Soviet Russia, Soviet Estonia, Communist China, and post-socialist Chile from the 1970s, focussing on historiographical evidence produced by individual economists and social scientists. We assess how local varieties of neoliberalism emerged from the late 1970s, not as a passive import from the West, but in engagement with local intellectual traditions, domestic economic and political challenges, and interpretations of reforms abroad – including in the West, but more crucially in other countries of the socialist world. Our assumption is that a liberal script was laid out long before the arrival of Western advisors; it was only partially implemented around 1990, and while some of their ideas still informed economic and financial policy, the neoliberals themselves were soon politically sidelined.


Attendance is open to all and not limited to invited presenters. If you want to participate, please write to George Payne g.payne@fu-berlin.de.

The workshop takes place fully on site, but online participation is possible.

Time & Location

Oct 06, 2022 - Oct 07, 2022

Day 1 - HUB_X, 1st floor, Humboldt Forum, Schloßpl. 1, 10178 Berlin
Day 2 - SCRIPTS Villa, Edwin-Redslob-Straße 29, 14195 Berlin