Associate Professor Ryan Walter

Associate Professor

School of Political Science and International Studies
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
r.walter1@uq.edu.au
+61 7 336 58210

Overview

Supervised by the late Barry Hindess, I wrote my PhD on the history of economic thought in Britain, focusing on how the rise of political economy changed political discourse. My current research continues this inquiry but in relaton to the emergence of the political economist as a distinctive intellectual persona, focusing on Adam Smith, Thomas Robert Malthus, and David Ricardo. A major result has been to clarify the nature of the opposition that greeted the first economists. In short, 'theorising' had not been established as a prestigious activity; the presumption of intellectuals to reform their societies on the basis of 'theory' was perceived as an instance of philosophical enthusiasm, an intellectual pathology thought to underlie the French Revolution. Political economists responded to this opposition in divergent ways, producing fractiousness within their own ranks.

The long-range hypothesis to test in future work is that these teething issues were never resolved, with the result that the office of the economist in relation to government has never been stabilised by the development of a set of professional ethics and disciplines internal to economics of the type that lawyers and doctors innovated. If correct, this suggests that, while some economists have been domesticated by the imposition of bureaucratic offices, as for those working in central banks and treasury departments, most economists continue to roam wild, leaving our political institutions as exposed to their enthusiasm/truth as they were 200 years ago. The key statement of the initial stage of this research is Before Method and Models (Oxford, 2021). A series of subsidiary findings are published in Modern Intellectual History, Journal of the History of Ideas, Historical Journal, and Intellectual History Review.

Research Interests

  • History of economic thought
  • History of political thought

Qualifications

  • Bachelor of Economics, Murdoch University
  • Bachelor of Commerce, Murdoch University
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Australian National University

Publications

View all Publications

Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision

Available Projects

  • I am currently investigating the history of political theory, building on Ian Hunter's "History of Theory" work. Early results have been published in Modern Intellectual History (2018). The leading finding so far is that the first "political theorists" were greeted with hostility because their presumption to remodel their societies on the basis of abstract reason was construed in relation to "enthusiasm" - a pathology affecting the mind by which it becomes enchanted with its own creations, above all, intellectual systems and dazzling ideas. These results suggest that a crucial line for further research to pursue is the means by which "theorists" achieved the status and prestige that they enjoy today.

  • My recent work loosely tracks the history of "liberalism", but with extreme scepticism towards the usefulness of that category. In short, the aim is to reject the lazy assertion that ideas make the world and instead track those texts and arts of reasoning that achieved institutional and political traction. This, in turn, requires focusing on texts and their reception histories, alongside investigating the personnel who staffed the liberal-democratic state. While my chief interest is in the role of political economists in shaping parliamentary deliberation and reform in nineteenth-century Britain - see the Bullion Controversy, Poor Laws, and Corn Laws - the bigger vision will need to take in party politicians, lawyers, and bureaucrats. Early results have been published in Intellectual History Review (2018).

View all Available Projects

Publications

Featured Publications

Book

Book Chapter

Journal Article

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • I am currently investigating the history of political theory, building on Ian Hunter's "History of Theory" work. Early results have been published in Modern Intellectual History (2018). The leading finding so far is that the first "political theorists" were greeted with hostility because their presumption to remodel their societies on the basis of abstract reason was construed in relation to "enthusiasm" - a pathology affecting the mind by which it becomes enchanted with its own creations, above all, intellectual systems and dazzling ideas. These results suggest that a crucial line for further research to pursue is the means by which "theorists" achieved the status and prestige that they enjoy today.

  • My recent work loosely tracks the history of "liberalism", but with extreme scepticism towards the usefulness of that category. In short, the aim is to reject the lazy assertion that ideas make the world and instead track those texts and arts of reasoning that achieved institutional and political traction. This, in turn, requires focusing on texts and their reception histories, alongside investigating the personnel who staffed the liberal-democratic state. While my chief interest is in the role of political economists in shaping parliamentary deliberation and reform in nineteenth-century Britain - see the Bullion Controversy, Poor Laws, and Corn Laws - the bigger vision will need to take in party politicians, lawyers, and bureaucrats. Early results have been published in Intellectual History Review (2018).