Talk to Explore the Hidden History of the Rise of the Radical Right

Nancy MacLeanDuke Photography
Monday, November 27, 2017

Award-winning historian and Duke University Professor Nancy MacLean will be on the UMass campus on Monday, November 13 to deliver a public talk on her new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. The book is a finalist for the National Book Award, one of the nation’s preeminent literary awards.

MacLean will speak at 4:30pm in Goodell Hall’s Bernie Dallas room. Her talk is part of the Political Economy Research Institute's year-long speaker series, "The Right-Wing Assault on American Democracy: The Right Wing Assault on American Democracy: What Is It? How Can We Defeat It?

Democracy in Chains is one of the most important books of this year,” says Gerald Epstein Co-Director of Political Economy Research Institute which is co-hosting the event with several other UMass departments. “As The Guardian put it, it provides ‘the missing chapter: the key to understanding the politics of the past half century.’”

Based on ten years of original research, Democracy in Chains is an explosive exposé of the rise of the radical right. The book details what it describes as a “relentless campaign to eliminate unions, suppress voting, privatize public education, and change the Constitution.” The goal of this movement, MacLean argues, is to undermine democracy itself in order to weaken the ability of the majority to use its numbers to level the playing field between the rich and powerful and everyone else.

The book’s unique contribution is in unearthing the story of one of the architects of this movement, the Nobel Prize-winning political economist James McGill Buchanan. Buchanan’s thinking, MacLean argues, formed the philosophical basis and strategy for the rise of the Koch Foundation and other right wing funders’ efforts to rewrite the social contract of the modern world and to alter every branch of government.

In her public talk, MacLean will share the story of how she found the trail of this collaboration in the archives and explain what she calls its “frightening endgame and import.”

While Democracy in Chains has been lauded by nationally renowned historians and thought leaders, it has also be the subject of unusually powerful blowback, particularly from libertarian critics. MacLean will speak at 4:30pm in Goodell Hall’s Bernie Dallas room. ). Co-sponsors include the UMass Departments of History, Economics, and Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies.

The event is free and open to the public, and a reception will follow. Copies of Democracy in Chains will be available, some for free on a first come, first served basis.

Later in November, Forbes Library, the UMass Amherst History Department and the Center for Popular Economics will host a community conversation about the book, facilitated by Francisco Perez of the Center for Popular Economics. This discussion will be held in the Forbes Library Community Room from 5:30-6:30 on Wednesday, November 29.

Contact: Gerald Epstein, Co-Director, PERI: gepstein@econs.umass.edu