Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy
Albert O Hirschman

A bias for hope - Revisiting Albert Hirschman's legacy

Roundtable with Santiago Gerchunoff, Shalini Randeria and Laurence Whitehead
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Auditorium A2, Maison de la Paix

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Albert O. Hirschman made a series of invaluable contributions to the social sciences - not just in economic and political theory, but also in area studies and comparative history, always with a “bias for hope” in favour of constructive policies of reform. He responded to the tragedies of interwar Europe first through personal commitment (as a member of the resistance), and later with organised redesign (working for the Marshall Plan). Then, in the 1950s, he turned to Latin America. His 1958 "strategy of economic development" provided a powerful framework for the analysis of the sub-continent's developmental challenges as it experimented with import-substituting industrialisation and the first generation of national economic planning endeavours. In Journeys Toward Progress, he followed up with more specific and historically-grounded studies of key issues such as drought control in North-East Brazil (SUDENE), inflation management in Chile, and land reform in South America. These were specific studies of contemporary relevance, but always couched in generalisable form and geared towards practical recommendations. His later work may have seemed more universal in outlook (notably Exit, voice and loyalty and The rhetoric of reaction), yet it was also informed by his expertise on Latin America, whose major development challenges he continued to engage directly with (authoritarian rule, how to divest from Latin America, and why, etc). Many of his insights remain relevant to the very different conditions of the region in the 2020s, and his overall approach to development still provides a salutary corrective to narrower and more conventional orthodoxies that remain current.

This roundtable will discuss Albert O. Hirschman's seminal insights and how they enable to grasp specific research and policy issues. In particular, panelists will reflect on the changing forms of civic engagement that produce new configurations of "voice" and "exit”




Santiago Gerchunoff, Professor of Political Theory, Universidad Carlos III, Madrid

Shalini Randeria, Professor of Anthropology and Sociology & President and Rector, Central European University, Vienna

Laurence Whitehead, Senior Research Fellow in Politics, Nuffield College, Oxford University



Christine Lutringer, Senior Researcher and Executive Director, Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy, Geneva Graduate Institute



This is the public event of the international workshop convened by the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy and Oxford University, and supported by the Société suisse des américanistes (SSA).

Santiago Gerchunoff has a doctorate in philosophy from the Complutense University of Madrid. He currently directs the Spanish essay publisher Clave Intelectual and is a professor of Political Theory at the Carlos III University. He has written essays and cultural criticism in Spanish and Latin American media such as El Español, Ctxt, La Nación, Dossier and La Vanguardia. He is the author of the essay Ironía On. A defense of mass public conversation (Anagrama, 2019).


Shalini Randeria is Rector and President of the Central European University in Vienna. She is Distinguished Fellow of the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto and holds the Excellence Chair at the University of Bremen, where she leads a research group on “soft authoritarianisms”. From 2017 to 2021 Shalini Randeria was Director of the Graduate Institute’s Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy, to which she remains affiliated as Senior Visiting Fellow. She is hosts the influential podcast series “Democracy in question?”.


Laurence Whitehead is a Senior Research Fellow in Politics at Nuffield College, Oxford University. He is a member of the steering committee of the Red Eurolatinoamericano de Gobernabilidad para el Desarrollo (RedGob). His most recent publications include Let the People Rule?  Direct Democracy in the 21st Century (2017) (edited with S. Ruth and Y. Welp), Illiberal Practices:Territorial Variance with in Large Federal Democracies (2016) (co-edited with J. Behrend), Latin America: A New Interpretation (2010) and Democratization: Theory and Experience (OUP, 2002).


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