Distinguished Lecture by Professor Edmund Phelps with discussant A C Grayling, "Mass Flourishing: how it was gained and how it was lost"

Past Event

17 October 2013, 6:30pm - 8:00pm

The Sheldonian
Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3AZ

In the opening distinguished lecture of the academic year, Nobel Prize-winning economist Edmund Phelps offers a new perspective on prosperity and the purpose of economic growth. He will look at how prosperity flourished for many nations in the 19th and early 20th centuries, how its sources were drained away in the late 20th century and what prosperity means for the next 100 years.

Phelps will look at how real prosperity goes beyond material wealth to "flourishing" from work that is meaningful, affords self-expression and provides personal growth. Drawing on his lifetime of thinking, he will show how grassroots innovation was created from the 1820s to the mid-twentieth century and how it has been in decline ever since. In this lecture, Phelps will argue the ultimate fate of modern values is now the most pressing question for the West; will Western nations recommit themselves to modernity, grassroots dynamism, indigenous innovation, and widespread personal fulfilment, or will we go on with a narrowed innovation that limits flourishing to a few?

His lecture will be followed by a discussion with:

  • A C Grayling, Master of the New College of the Humanities, and a Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford

About the speakers

Professor Edmund Phelps is the McVickar Professor of Political Economy at Columbia University, Director of The Center on Capitalism and Society, and the winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Economics. His career began with a stint at the RAND Corporation. Back east in 1960, he held appointments at Yale and its Cowles Foundation until 1966, then a professorship for five years at Penn. In 1970 he moved to New York and joined Columbia in 1971.

Phelps's work can be seen as a program to put "people as we know them" back into economic models - to take into account the incompleteness of their information and their knowledge and to study the effects of their expectations and beliefs on the workings of markets. He has adopted this perspective in studying unemployment and inclusion, economic growth, business swings and economic dynamism.

Phelps holds many honorary doctorates and professorships, including from the Université libre de Bruxelles (2010), Tsinghua University (2007) and the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (2006). Phelps is a Fellow of the National Academy of Science and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association, and in 2001 a Festschrift conference was held in his honour. In 2008, he was named Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur and awarded the Premio Pico della Mirandola and the Kiel Global Economy Prize. The same year the UBA Law School established the Catedra Phelps and the Phelps Medal for Innovation. In 2010, he was appointed Dean of New Huadu Business School at Minjiang University in Fuzhou. In 2011, Professor Phelps received the Louise Blouin Creative Leadership Award and was named a Full Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and in 2012 he was elected an Honorary Patron of the University Philosophical Society of Trinity College and was awarded the Mendeleev Medal for Achievement in the Sciences.

Phelps has written op-ed articles for a variety of papers including the Financial Times, Newsweek, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He has authored or co-authored over twenty books including Political Economy (1985), Seven Schools of Macroeconomic Thought (1990), Rewarding Work (1999), and Enterprise and Inclusion in Italy (2002). His latest book - Mass Flourishing: How grassroots innovation created jobs, challenge and change - was released in August 2013.

A C Grayling MA, DPhil (Oxon) FRSL, FRSA is Master of the New College of the Humanities, and a Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford. Until 2011 he was Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London. He has written and edited over thirty books on philosophy and other subjects; among his most recent are The Good Book, Ideas That Matter, Liberty in the Age of Terror and To Set Prometheus Free. For several years he wrote the Last Word column for the Guardian newspaper and a column for The Times. He is a frequent contributor to the Literary Review, Observer, Independent on Sunday, Times Literary Supplement, Index on Censorship and New Statesman, and is an equally frequent broadcaster on BBC Radios 4, 3 and the World Service. He writes the Thinking Read column for the Barnes and Noble Review in New York, is the Editor of Online Review London, and a Contributing Editor of Prospect magazine.

In addition he sits on the editorial boards of several academic journals, and for nearly ten years was the Honorary Secretary of the principal British philosophical association, the Aristotelian Society. He is a past chairman of June Fourth, a human rights group concerned with China, and is a representative to the UN Human Rights Council for the International Humanist and Ethical Union. He is a Vice President of the British Humanist Association, the Patron of the United Kingdom Armed Forces Humanist Association, a patron of Dignity in Dying, and an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society.

Anthony Grayling was a Fellow of the World Economic Forum for several years, and a member of its C-100 group on relations between the West and the Islamic world. He has served as a Trustee of the London Library and a board member of the Society of Authors. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. In 2003 he was a Booker Prize judge, in 2010 was a judge of the Art Fund prize, and in 2011 the Wellcome Book Prize.

He supports a number of charities including Plan UK, Greenpeace, Médecins Sans Frontières, Amnesty International and Freedom from Torture. He is also a sponsor of Rogbonko School in Sierra Leone.

Anthony Grayling's latest books are The God Argument (March 2013) and Friendship (September 2013).

Photo credit: Mykel Nicolaou / Rex features