UCL Institute of the Americas


Dr Elliot Askew

Requiem for Reality: An Intellectual History of the Response to Neoliberalism in 1980s and 1990s America


Dr Nick Witham and Professor Jonathan Bell

PhD completed in 2022

My project examined the intellectual responses to the entrenchment of neoliberalism during the 1980s and 1990s within the United States. The responses are drawn from public intellectuals and critics who are either on the political left or who are nearer the mainstream but lack a coherent and consistent political ideology. I aim to outline and analyse the logic of neoliberalism, how intellectuals were understanding neoliberalism and its effects during the last two decades of the twentieth century, and how this relates to a wider ‘war of ideas’ framework.

The majority of the scholarship on neoliberalism either aims to explore the intellectual roots of the ideas that neoliberalism stems from, or it is of a more sociological persuasion and develops theories on how neoliberalism as a system operates. I aimed to bridge this divide within the literature by using the perceptions of intellectuals to provide a bottom up understanding of the neoliberal system, whilst simultaneously temporally advancing the literature on the roots of neoliberalism by exploring the intellectual response from new angles at the moment when it took hold.