Selfishness in austerity times

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Spring 2014
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Explores how selfishness is of ever more frequent circulation within the political lexicon, including being increasingly validated as a virtue. Discusses thinkers such as Adam Smith, who believed self interest to be central to the economy; and Friedrich Hayek and Ayn Rand, who actively worked to popularise individualism and self-interest (the latter being the acceptable face of selfishness). Rand in particular shared with Margaret Thatcher the ability to infuse laissez-faire economics with deeply moral convictions centred on the importance of individual character (indeed, it was Ayn Rand who first wrote that ‘there is no such entity as “society” ’). Thinkers such as these believe that it is unfair that hard workers should be legally required to support the subsistence and well-being of their fellows. Working in the tradition of Raymond Williams’s keywords, the authors explore how meanings such as these are shaped within popular culture to achieve specific political ends.

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Soundings 56 Austerity generation