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Nancy MacLean: Democracy in chains

Nancy MacLean at UNSW

How did corporations come to possess rights? How did democracy come to be defined as selfish individualism? Or money as free speech? Most people would blame Trump, but the man himself is just a distraction from the deeper and more troubling right wing agenda.

Award-winning historian Nancy MacLean takes us undercover to look at how the radical right’s influence in the US has grown to undermine democracy.

From its intellectual foundations in the work of economist James Buchanan to the long-term efforts of libertarian billionaires like the Koch brothers, she examines the stealth strategies that that have been deployed to undermine trust in government and influence policy debate. 

Public interest has been subordinated to private interest, and when there is no clear distinction between them, it opens the door to endless opportunities for corruption.

Nancy MacLean



Chaired by Ann Mossop, Director of the UNSW Centre for Ideas.

This event is presented in partnership with the Adelaide Writers' Week. 

Nancy MacLean Portrait

Nancy MacLean

Nancy MacLean is a Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University, a fellow of the Society of American Historians, and the award-winning author of many books including Behind the Mask of Chivalry  (a New York Times 'noteworthy' book of the year) and Freedom is Not Enough, which was called by the Chicago Tribune "contemporary history at its best". Her most recent book, Democracy in Chains, was a 2017 National Book Award Finalist and has been described as "the best explanation to date of the roots of the political divide that threatens to irrevocably alter American government”. Nancy lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Image of Ann Mossop

Ann Mossop | Chairperson

Ann Mossop is the Artistic Director of Sydney Writers’ Festival, and was previously the Director of the Centre for Ideas at UNSW Sydney. She also held the position of as Head of Talks and Ideas at the Sydney Opera House from 2010–2017. She established the Opera House’s extensive talks and ideas program and lead key projects like the Festival of Dangerous Ideas and All About Women. Throughout her career she has been involved with important initiatives to bring the work of writers and thinkers to broader audiences, from the pioneering series Writers in the Park to the re-establishment of the Sydney Writers’ Festival.

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