University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Financial History Seminar > Protectionism, deindustrialisation and European integration: the crisis of British Keynesianism revisited, 1973-1993

Protectionism, deindustrialisation and European integration: the crisis of British Keynesianism revisited, 1973-1993

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This paper revisits the politics of Keynesianism after 1973 by exploring the controversies surrounding the economists Wynne Godley, Francis Cripps, and the Cambridge Economic Policy Group. Responding to stagflation, strikes, and monetarism, CEPG called for theoretical and forecasting revolutions, and demanded sweeping import controls – unilateral if necessary – to forestall mass unemployment and reverse Britain’s ‘decline’. They became celebrity economists, attracting both admiration and opprobrium and shaping the agenda of journalists, politicians, the state, industry, and the City. Although losing prominence over the 1980s, Godley and Cripps resurfaced in the impassioned debates over European integration in the early 1990s. Their arguments raised thorny questions, not just over economic theory and policy, but also history, development, national autonomy, international law, and British relations with Europe, Japan, America, and the ‘Third World’.

Revisiting the ‘New Cambridge’ debates throws light on Britain’s transforming political economy in the late twentieth century, contributing to recent scholarship that recognises but looks beyond ‘neoliberalism’. This paper underscores the crucial role of deindustrialisation and oil in destabilising the mid-century foundations – economic, political, and intellectual – of full employment. It also highlights the intersection between macroeconomic politics and the geopolitics of the Cold War and emerging European Union. Finally, through exploring the internal conflicts and creative reinventions of ‘Keynesianism’ after its alleged demise, this paper illuminates political and economic controversies of the early twenty-first century.

This talk is part of the Financial History Seminar series.

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