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Origins of Today’s Radical Right & the Crisis in Our Democracy

Oregon Historical Society, 1200 SW Park
1200 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR 97205, US (map)



Democracy in Chains is an explosive exposé of the little-known thinker behind the radical right’s relentless campaign to eliminate unions, suppress voting, privatize public education, stop action on climate change, and alter the Constitution: the Nobel Prize winning political economist James McGill Buchanan. It was Buchanan who taught Charles Koch that for capitalism to thrive, democracy must be enchained. Without Koch’s bottomless wealth, journalists have shown, American politics would not have reached their current nadir. But without Buchanan, Koch would not have a winning strategy for his messianic vision of free-reign capitalism—or a corporate university at his disposal to guide and defend it.

The Atlantic has called the book a “vibrant intellectual history of the radical right.” George Monbiot wrote in The Guardian: “It’s the missing chapter: a key to understanding the politics of the past half century.” NPR’s reviewer concluded that “If you’re worried about what all this means for America’s future, you should be.”

Come hear Professor MacLean share the story of how she found the trail of this collaboration in the archives as she explains its frightening import for our lives and our institutions.

Nancy MacLean is the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University and the immediate past president of the Labor and Working Class History Association. She is the author of several books, including Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan; Freedom is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace; The American Women’s Movement, 1945-2000: A Brief History with Documents; and Debating the American Conservative Movement: 1945 to the Present. She also served the editor of Scalawag: A White Southerner’s Journey through Segregation to Human Rights Activism. Her scholarship has received more than a dozen prizes and awards, and been supported by fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Humanities Center, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowships Foundation.

This program is offered in partnership with the Citizenship and Crisis Initiative, a joint effort of the OSU Center for the Humanities and School of History, Philosophy, and Religion.