John Maynard Keynes: Historian of Political Thought?

Tuesday 21 November 2017
6:30–8:00pm
Keynes Library, 43 Gordon Square
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A lecture delivered by Dr Duncan Kelly (University of Cambridge) on John Maynard Keynes as a historian of British political thought.

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It is almost impossible to overstate the impact of John Maynard Keynes in the field of modern political economy, and certainly impossible to tell the political and economic history of the first half of the last century without at least some reference to his thinking, teaching and public presence. But what might be said about Keynes both in the context of the history of British political thought in that period, and also of the extent to which Keynes, as a political economist, might himself be considered an historian of political thought?

This lecture attempts to engage these questions in two ways. First, by looking at Keynes’s attempts to redeploy the legacy of Thomas Malthus from the Great War to the middle of the 1930s, alongside his attempts to consider the nature of modern liberalism in general, it aims to consider to what extent this part of his wide-ranging output might actually be seen as an exercise in the history of political thinking. Second, and much more speculatively, by connecting up some of the ways in which contemporary debates about the interrelationship between environmental and financial crisis take us back to debates about political economy in the 1970s, might we see how the illustration of Keynes’s various ‘Malthusian moments’ may retain some resonance in contemporary debates about the interconnection between environmental and financial crisis.

Dr Duncan Kelly is Reader in Political Thought at the University of Cambridge. His research focuses on modern political and economic ideas and their intellectual history.