How Market Fundamentalism Has Blocked Climate Action
Naomi Oreskes (Harvard University)

November 14, 2023, 4:00pm - 6:00pm
The McCoy Family Center For Ethics in Society, Stanford University

Stanford Humanities Center, 424 Santa Teresa St
Stanford 94305
United States

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities

This event is available both online and in-person


  • Stanford Humanities Center


Stanford University
Stanford University
Stanford University
University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

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We are happy to invite you to the second session of our workshop Facing the Anthropocene: Interdisciplinary Approaches with Prof. Naomi Oreskes (Harvard) on "How Market Fundamentalism Has Blocked Climate Action” this Tuesday, Nov. 14. The speaker will join us on Zoom (link below) and we’ll also gather at the Boardroom of the Humanities Center to Zoom in together. If you are joining in person, please RSVP.  Tea and pastries will be provided.

The Facing the Anthropocene: Interdisciplinary Approaches workshop presents:  

How Market Fundamentalism Has Blocked Climate Action Prof. Naomi Oreskes (Harvard) November 14th, 2023 | 4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. (PST) Hybrid: Zoom (speaker):

Boardroom, Stanford Humanities Center (424 Santa Teresa St, Stanford, CA 94305)

RSVP here:

Abstract:Throughout the 19th century, the U.S. government played a major role in economic life, promoting economic development through infrastructure and education and regulating many markets. In the late century, Americans realized that an even larger hand was needed to address the failures of laissez-faire capitalism, from slavery and child labor to anti-union violence and monopolistic practices. But then something changed.  Americans started to reject “big government” and to believe in the “magic of the marketplace.” Why?How did so many Americans come to have so much faith in markets and so little faith in government?  The short answer: a long-durée propaganda campaign, organized by American business leaders. In the 1910s and ’20s, businessmen bristled at efforts to make life better through government action, particularly regulation. Trade associations, wealthy powerbrokers, and media allies worked to build a new orthodoxy, insisting that government regulation was both economically unproductive and a threat to liberty. Before World War II, their efforts included initiatives to rewrite textbooks, re-shape and create academic curricula, combat unions, defend child labor, and fight the New Deal. After the war, they promoted the work of neoliberal economists Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek, arranging for them to come to the United States and paying for them to teach at New York University and the University of Chicago. At Chicago, they supported “The Free Market Project,” where George Stigler reframed Adam Smith as an anti-government extremist and Milton Friedman reframed Hayek for an American mass audience.  They also worked to promote market fundamentalism in popular culture, through children’s books, radio, film, and television, including a General Electric company -sponsored television show that beamed free-market doctrine (and the young Ronald Reagan) to millions, and launched Reagan’s political career. 

By the 1980s, this crusade had succeeded. It was not merely that Reagan--with heavy support from General Electric and other American corporations had become President. It was that the ideology of “limited government” would define the next half-century across Republican and Democratic administrations, giving us a housing crisis, the opioid scourge, climate destruction, and a baleful response to the Covid-19 pandemic.   Bio: Naomi Oreskes is Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University. Her essays and opinion pieces have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, The Times (London), Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and many other outlets. She is the author or editor of eight books on science in society, including the best-selling, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming(Bloomsbury, 2010), and most recently, Science on a Mission: How Military Funding Shaped What We Do and Don’t Know about the Ocean (University of Chicago Press, 2021).  The Big Myth, co-authored with Erik M. Conway, will be published by Bloomsbury Press in 2023. 

This Workshop is sponsored by the Stanford Humanities Center and made possible by support from an anonymous donor, former Fellows, the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society. If you have any questions, you can contact the Graduate Student Co-Chair at [email protected]

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