The Progressive Post

John Weeks (1941-2020)

FEPS Secretary General

This Summer, progressive economists lost a great thinker, author, teacher, activist and friend. I have known Prof. John Weeks for nearly three decades, starting with a visit at SOAS, and then an invitation to Budapest. During the post-1989 transition, those who refused to buy into the newly hegemonic neoliberal dogma, found his book Capital and Exploitation highly illuminating as well as accessible.

By that time he was a distinguished professor of development economics, who had worked on several continents, was published in various languages, and always wanted to maintain a bridge between theory and practice. His books were immensely helpful for students of the capitalist economy, social inequality and the third world debt crisis.

More recently, he contributed to the analysis of the Great Recession and the euro area crisis, and quickly endorsed the idea of a common unemployment insurance in the EU. He remained a pro-European critic of some mistaken EU policies, especially in the field of economic governance. He was looking for ways to reform the EU, in particular its fiscal rules, but opposed Brexit (an essentially neoliberal and nationalist project).

John became Professor Emeritus at SOAS (London), but in reality never retired. He became a radio program host to disseminate economic knowledge. He always had plans, most importantly to promote progressive economic theory and policy in Britain, but also to connect the UK circles of left-wing economics with other similar groups on the continent. He showed that one can be an economist and a humanist at the same time, which is not self-evident, given the neo-classical bias for competition and the resulting openness towards social Darwinism. He remains an inspiration for progressive economists in Europe and beyond. 

Obituaries from friends and colleagues can be found here:

By Ann Pettifor: Remembering John Weeks

By Ben Fine and Alfredo Saad-Filho: Remembering John Weeks

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak: Prof John Weeks humanised Economics as a Discipline

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