Keynes, Liberalism, and ‘The Emancipation of the Mind’
The English Historical Review
Oxford University Press
© Oxford University Press 2015. All rights reserved.
Reason for embargo
This article offers a more systematic assessment of John Maynard Keynes’s attitude to Liberalism, and his engagement with the Liberal Party, than has previously been attempted. It does so as a means of exploring how the study of ideologies should be approached. To Keynes, ideologies were not simply constellations of fixed principles; in his view, policies were always contingent on circumstances, and thus what was appropriate now would become outdated in the future. The Liberal, therefore, needed a flexible and experimental psychological attitude, in order to devise solutions that were appropriate to changing conditions. Using his 1925 lecture ‘Am I a Liberal?’ as a starting point, it is argued here that Keynes saw Liberalism primarily as a discursive practice in the public sphere, that is to say as a technique for ‘doing politics’. We need not take Keynes’s evaluation of his own Liberal mind-set at face value, but it nonetheless casts light on the nature of Liberalism in this period. In spite of the Liberal party’s electoral decline, the political conditions of the 1920s were particularly well suited to Keynes’s vision. For him, Liberalism depended upon, but would also help to facilitate, what he referred to as ‘the emancipation of the mind.’
This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in English Historical Review following peer review. The version of record is available online at doi: 10.1093/ehr/cev215.
The English Historical Review, 2015