Presenters: Pablo Pryluka (Princeton University)
Chair: Ashton Merck (Duke University)
02/03/2021 16.00 UK
In July of 1974, the J. Walter Thompson advertising company signed a contract with the Chilean Junta in order to organize a global campaign to improve the international image of the dictatorship. Around two months later the agreement was made public, first in the United States and then around the world. The reaction was immediate—over the next few days, European and American JWT managers began to complain about the agreement. By the end of September, 1974, it was clear that the collaboration would have to be severed, which finally happened in October. The existence of such an agreement had some impact at the time, but afterwards remained almost unnoticed. So far, two approaches have hegemonized the history of the so-called neoliberal turn of the 1970s and 1980s. On the one hand, approaches coming from political economy and other social sciences underlined the impact of structural reforms on economic growth and inequality. On the other hand, the new histories of neoliberalism delved into the intellectual debates that preceded and supported the new economic policies, interested in tracing how these ideas traveled from the pen of Friedrich Hayek to global institutions and policymakers. This paper takes a different approach by returning a forgotten actor to the story: private companies. As the case of the J. Walter Thompson and its connection with the Chilean Military Junta illustrates, this methodological shift challenges the current narratives about the transformations of the 1970s and 1980s.