The Shock Doctrine

University of Chicago Faculty Letter on The Milton Friedman Institute

6 June 2008

President Robert Zimmer
Provost Thomas Rosenbaum
University of Chicago
5801 South Ellis Avenue Suite 502
Chicago IL 60637

Dear President Zimmer and Provost Rosenbaum:

We were interested to read President Zimmer’s recent message announcing the Milton Friedman Institute, with its 200 million dollar plus endowment and prime real estate location on campus. We understand that the University of Chicago’s association with Friedman has been important to its international reputation during the last four decades, and can imagine that the University reasonably sees benefit in cultivating a continued involvement with his school of economic thought.

Nevertheless, we are concerned about the project in which the University is now investing. The signatories of this document are not ideologically homogeneous, nor interested in advancing a single alternative view that we find more socially progressive. But we are all disturbed by the ideological and disciplinary preference implied by the University's massive support for the economic and political doctrines that have extended from Friedman's work. This is not a question of academic freedom, to be sure: we know that the work of scholars at the Milton Friedman Institute will not have a chilling effect on the development of other kinds of knowledge at the University. This is a question of the meaning of the University’s investments, in all senses. We are concerned, additionally, that this endeavor could reinforce among the public a perception that the University’s faculty lacks intellectual and ideological diversity. A variety of other specific concerns includes the following:

  • Many colleagues are distressed by the notoriety of the Chicago School of Economics, especially throughout much of the global south, where they have often to defend the University’s reputation in the face of its negative image. The effects of the neoliberal global order that has been put in place in recent decades, strongly buttressed by the Chicago School of Economics, have by no means been unequivocally positive. Many would argue that they have been negative for much of the world's population, leading to the weakening of a number of struggling local economies in the service of globalized capital, and many would question the substitution of monetization for democratization under the banner of “market democracy.”

  • When the University of Chicago invests so heavily in culturally and politically conservative thought we wonder about its commitment to strong intellectual diversity in the tradition of the Kalven Report. Consider, for instance, the following passage in the Proposal to Establish the Milton Friedman Institute, which construes a certain orthodoxy as the starting point for any discussion: "Following Friedman’s lead, the design and evaluation of economic policy requires analyses that respect the incentives of individuals and the essential role of markets in allocating goods and services. As Friedman and others continually demonstrated, design of public policy without regard to market alternatives has adverse social consequences." Given the fact that our University is known for its commitment to interdisciplinarity, methodological diversity, and to discussion across political lines, some colleagues seek to secure these principles in both the structure and governance of the Institute and feel this commitment is belied by the Institute's founding documents. Some colleagues are disturbed by the specter of the University of Chicago becoming another Stanford, with the Milton Friedman Institute taking on the imposing campus presence of the Hoover Institution. Many of us are also perturbed that other units of the University that routinely engage the issues that the Friedman Institute is designed to address were not included in the planning, nor included in the ongoing core scholarly endeavors of the Institute.

  • In the interests of equity and balance, many of us feel that the University ought to reconsider contributing to the proposed Milton Friedman Institute, which will inevitably be a powerful magnet for scholars and donors who share a specific set of interests and values to the exclusion of others, whether this is openly acknowledged or not. Still others believe that, given the influx of private contributions to the MFI, the University now has the opportunity to provide roughly equivalent resources for critical scholarly work that seeks out alternatives to recent economic, social, and political developments.


Virtually all of us are distressed by the position the University has taken and by the process through which decisions have been made. We would ask to meet with you at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely yours,

Hussein Agrama, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology
Muzaffar Alam, Carl Darling Buck Professor, Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations and the College
Yali Amit, Professor, Departments of Statistics and Computer Science
Clifford Ando, Professor of Classics
Leora Auslander, Professor, Department of History, Committee on the History of Culture, Committee on Jewish Studies, and the College
Ralph Austen, Professor Emeritus of History
Lauren Berlant, George M. Pullman Professor, Department of English
Michael Bourdaghs, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations
Mark Bradley, Associate Professor of History
Bill Brown, Edward Carson Waller Distinguished Service Professor, Departments of English and Visual Arts; Committee on the History of Culture
Dipesh Chakrabarty, Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor, Departments of South Asian Languages and Civilizations and History
Tamara Chin, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature
Kyeong-Hee Choi, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations
Cathy J. Cohen, David and Mary Winton Green Professor of Political Science
Jennifer Cole, Associate Professor, Dept of Comparative Human Development
Jean Comaroff, Bernard E. & Ellen C. Sunny Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology and of Social Sciences
John Comaroff, Harold H. Swift Distinguished Service Professor in Anthropology and the College
Raúl Coronado, Assistant Professor, Department of English
Bruce Cumings, Gustavus F. and Ann M. Swift Distinguished Service Professor in History and the College
Michael C. Dawson, John D. MacArthur Professor of Political Science and the College
Hilary Parsons Dick, Postodoctoral Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, Center for Latin American Studies
Michael Dietler, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Fred Donner, Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Prasenjit Duara, Professor of History and East Asian Languages & Civilizations
Darby English, Associate Professor of Art History
Jacob Eyferth, Assistant Professor, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations
Christopher Faraone, Frank Curtis Springer and Gertrude Melcher Springer Professor of Classics
James Fernandez, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology
Pedro Felzenszwalb, Department of Computer Science
Norma Field, Robert S. Ingersoll Professor of Japanese Studies
Cornell H. Fleischer, Kanuni Suleyman Professor of Ottoman and Modern Turkish Studies
Richard Fox, Assistant Professor of History of Religions
Rachel Fulton, Department of History and the College
Susan Gal, Mae and Sidney G. Mead Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology and Linguistics
Leela Gandhi, Professor of English
Michael Geyer, Samuel N. Harper Professor of German and European History
McGuire Gibson, Professor of Mesopotamian Archaeology, NELC, Oriental Institute
W. Clark Gilpin, Margaret E. Burton Professor of History of Christianity
Andreas Glaeser, Associate Professor of Sociology and of the Social Sciences in the College
Jan Goldstein, Norman and Edna Freehling Professor of History
Robert Gooding-Williams, Ralph and Mary Otis Isham Professor, Department of Political Science and the College
Ramón A. Gutiérrez, The Preston and Sterling Morton Distinguished Service Professor of History
Susan Gzesh, Lecturer in Law, Director, University of Chicago Human Rights Program
Elaine Hadley, Associate Professor, Department of English
Miriam Hansen, Ferdinand Schevill Distinguished Service Professor in the Humanities, Department of English / Committee on Cinema and Media Studies
Donald Harper, Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations
Neil Harris, Preston and Sterling Morton Professor Emeritus, Departments of History, Art History
Elizabeth Helsinger, John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor, Departments of English and Art History
Thomas Holt, James Westfall Thompson Distinguished Service Professor of History
Paola Iovene, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations
Travis A. Jackson, Associate Professor of Music and the Humanities
Fredrik Albritton Jonsson, Assistant Professor of British History
Matthew Kapstein, Numata Visiting Professor of the Philosophy of Religion and the History of Religions in the Divinity School
John Kelly, Professor, Department of Anthropology
Robert L. Kendrick, Professor of Music
James Ketelaar, Professor of History and East Asian Languages & Civilizations
Emilio Kourí, Associate Professor of History, Director, Katz Center for Mexican Studies
Loren Kruger, Professor, Departments of Comparative and English Literatures, African Studies, Theatre and Performance Studies
Laura Letinsky, Professor, Department of Visual Arts
Bruce Lincoln, Caroline E. Haskell Professor of the History of Religions John A. Lucy, Department of Comparative Human Development
Agnes Lugo-Ortiz, Associate Professor, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures and Center for Latin American Studies
Amanda Macdonald, Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of English
Patchen Markell, Associate Professor, Political Science
Françoise Meltzer, Mabel Greene Myers Professor of Comparative Literature, Romance Languages, and Divinity
Janel Mueller, William Rainey Harper Distinguished Service Professor Emerita of English
Matam P. Murthy, Professor Emeritus, Department of Mathematics and the College
Joseph Masco, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology
William Mazzarella, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology and the College.
John P. McCormick, Professor, Department of Political Science
Bernard McGinn, Naomi Shenstone Donnelly Professor Emeritus of Theology, History of Christianity, and Medieval Studies
Omar M. McRoberts, Associate Professor of Sociology
Jason Merchant, Associate Professor, Department of Linguistics
Stuart Michaels, Associate Director, Center for Gender Studies
W.J.T. Mitchell, Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor, Departments of English and Art History
Nancy D. Munn, Professor Emeritus, Anthropology
Deborah Nelson, Associate Professor, Department of English; Chair, Center for Gender Studies
David E. Orlinsky, Professor, Department of Comparative Human Development and Social Sciences Collegiate Division
Stephan Palmié, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Moishe Postone, Professor of History
Francois G. Richard, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology
Seth Richardson, Assistant Professor of Ancient Near Eastern History
Mel Rothenberg, Professor Emeritus, Dept of Math
Danilyn Rutherford, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology and Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory
Marshall Sahlins, Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology Emeritus
Mario Santana, Associate Professor, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures
Julie Saville, Associate Professor of History
William Sewell, The Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science and History Emeritus
Bart Schultz, Director of the Civic Knowledge Project and Senior Lecturer in the Humanities
William Schweiker, Edward L. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor of Theological Ethics
Dan Slater, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science
Joel Snyder, Professor of Art History, Visual Arts, and the College
Amy Dru Stanley, Associate Professor of History
Richard A. Strier, Frank L. Sulzberger Distinguished Service Professor
Katherine Fischer Taylor, Associate Professor of Art History
Russell H. Tuttle, Professor in Anthropology, Committee on Evolutionary Biology, Morris Fishbein Center for the History of Biology and Medicine, and the College
Theo van den Hout, Professor in the Oriental Institute and Dept. of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations
Candace Vogler, Professor, Department of Philosophy
Kenneth W. Warren, Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor, Department of English
Lisa Wedeen, Professor of Political Science
Christian Wedemeyer, Assistant Professor of History of Religions
Anthony C. Yu, Carl Darling Buck Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Humanities
Tara Zahra, Assistant Professor of History
Rebecca Zorach, Associate Professor, Department of Art History
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