In this article we explore the intellectual origins of John Maynard Keynes’s “Economic Possibilities” by introducing evidence of its parallels to a similar utopian message in H. G. Wells’s obscure didactic novel, The World of William Clissold (1926). Drawing upon archival evidence from Keynes and Wells’s own contemporary exchanges, we bring to light a largely unnoticed intellectual dialogue between the two authors that took place from roughly 1926 to 1934 through their published works, letters, and public and private conversations. The context provided by this dialogue sheds light upon the authors’ shared interests in the “scientific” ordering of society, and in particular a vision of the future that relied heavily upon proactive eugenic planning. These findings point to an under-acknowledged eugenic dimension to Keynes’s essay that emerges more openly from his contemporary exchanges with Wells as well as in several unpublished works and letters by both men. In addition to contextualizing a number of the intentionally vague predictions and prescriptions in “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren,” these findings establish deeper eugenic commitments in Keynes’s beliefs than previously thought and extend them into the mature phase of his economic writing.
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Research Article| April 01 2020
John Maynard Keynes, H. G. Wells, and a Problematic Utopia
History of Political Economy (2020) 52 (2): 211–238.
Phillip W. Magness, James R. Harrigan; John Maynard Keynes, H. G. Wells, and a Problematic Utopia. History of Political Economy 1 April 2020; 52 (2): 211–238. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00182702-8173298
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