Upcoming Events

We are sorry to inform you that this event has now be cancelled.

The Center for Interpretive and Qualitative Research (CIQR) presents a public lecture and seminar with Dr. Nancy MacLean of Duke University:

Public Lecture Details

Date: Thursday, March 26th, 2020

Time: 4:30-6:30pm

Location: Duquesne Union Ballroom (fourth floor of the Student Union)

Title: The Campus Origins of Today's Radical Right and the Crisis of American Democracy

(Parking is available at Forbes Garage at the intersection of Forbes Ave. and Magee St.)

Presenter: Dr. Nancy MacLean, William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University


A public lecture by Nancy MacLean, author of the National Book Award Non-Fiction Finalist and New York Times bestseller, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America. Booklist called Democracy in Chains "perhaps the best explanation to date of the roots of the political divide that threatens to irrevocably alter American government." The Nation named it the "most valuable book" of the year.

Democracy in Chains reveals the unknown history of the campaign by the radical rich to eliminate unions, suppress voting, privatize everything from education to Social Security, stop action on climate change, and alter the U.S. Constitution. MacLean traces this game plan back to the Nobel Prize-winning political economist James McGill Buchanan, who forged his ideas in an attempt to preserve the white elite's power in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. MacLean's talk will explore this little-known genesis of today's radical corporate right, from its crucible in Virginia in the late 1950s to its eventual embrace by the billionaire Charles Koch and the infrastructure of organizations his donor network supports, including on campuses across the country.

Seminar Details

Date: Friday, March 27th, 2020

Time: 10:00am-12:00pm

Location: College Hall 207 (Berger Gallery)

Title: "Since We Are Greatly Outnumbered": Why and How the Koch Network Uses Disinformation to Thwart Democracy

Presenter: Dr. Nancy MacLean, William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University

(A link to this paper can be found here. Please read before attending.)


This chapter examines one source of the strategic disinformation now rife in American public life: the Koch network of extreme right donors, allied organizations, and academic grantees. I argue that the architects of this network's project of radical transformation of our institutions and legal system have adopted this tactic in the knowledge that the hard-core libertarian agenda is extremely unpopular and therefore requires stealth to succeed. The chapter tells the story of how Charles Koch and his inner circle, having determined in the 1970s that changes significant enough to constitute a "constitutional revolution" (in the words of the political economist James McGill Buchanan) would be needed to protect capitalism from democracy, then went about experimenting to make this desideratum a reality. In the 1980s, they first incubated ideas for misleading the public to move their agenda, as shown by the strategy for Social Security privatization that Buchanan recommended to Koch's Cato Institute, and by the operations of Citizens for a Sound Economy, the network's first and very clumsy astroturf organizing effort. In the light of these foundational efforts, subsequent practices of active disinformation by this network become more comprehensible as driven by a mix of messianic dogma and self-interest for a project that cannot succeed by persuasion and organizing alone in the usual manner. Later cases include tobacco "scholarship" for hire by Buchanan's colleagues at George Mason University to deter the public health campaign against smoking, climate science denial to stop action on global warming, promotion of the myth of mass voter fraud to leverage racism to restrict the electorate, assurances that an Article V Constitutional Convention is a good idea and can be restricted to a few pre-announced changes, and the use of concocted memes of violent mobs that must be restrained to win passage of new legislation to criminalize protest, particularly against the fossil fuel industry (including SLAPP lawsuits and laws to penalize alleged infringements on "academic freedom").

About the Speaker:

Nancy MacLean is the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University, and the award-winning 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 major prizes and awards, and has 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.

Support donations by: Departments of English, History, Sociology, and Philosophy; Women and Gender Studies; Philosophy Speaker Series

All interested faculty, graduate students, and other parties are invited.