It was 1973, the year that Erasmus University was founded. Rutten was professor of Economics at EUR at the time and remained in that post until 1999. From 1973 to 1990, he was mainly secretary-general at Economic Affairs, where he and his colleague from Finance prepared the neoliberal policy for the governments of Lubbers, Kok, Balkenende and Rutte.

The quote comes from Neoliberalisme. Een Nederlandse geschiedenis. Bram Mellink (University of Amsterdam) and Merijn Oudenampsen (VU Brussels) studied what they call neoliberal networks, informal groups of civil servants, entrepreneurs, and scholars, who became the supporters of free market theories in our country, which were put on the political agenda internationally by neoliberal economists like Hayek and Friedman. In these networks, senior civil servants tended to play a decisive role: people like Frans Rutten, Lense Koopmans, Pieter Korteweg and Ad Geelhoed, who remained unknown to the public but who determined the policy at the ministries of Finance and Economic Affairs. An interesting similarity is that these top civil servants were all professors associated with Erasmus University.

The book by Mellink and Oudenampsen shows how EUR became a centre of academic discussions between supporters of the economist Keynes, who laid a basis for major government investments (and with whom Jan Tinbergen also debated), and the free market theories of Friedman. His neoliberal ideology was particularly promoted by Pieter Korteweg, who, according to Mellink and Oudenampsen, developed the monetary economics department ‘into a small but loud bastion of neoliberal ideology’, partly through the publication of the Rotterdamse Monetaire Studies. A policy which, from 1982, with the governments of Ruud Lubbers (also a Rotterdam economist), would become commonplace in The Hague.


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It is interesting that the economic sciences and political ideology at Erasmus University became so entwined. Social involvement is one of the Erasmian values: “As a university, we feel called to help resolve the complex problems of modern society.” The network analyses of Mellink and Oudenampsen show how science and ideology can therefore also become entangled and how Erasmus University was able to become a neoliberal bastion.

In my view, the solution is not that scholars retreat into their academic tower and leave politics to others. However, it helps if research is diverse and continues to reflect different views. Erasmus University is still a bastion of criticism of neoliberalism – particularly among the sociologists. For example, I enjoyed reading Pandemocratie (2021) by Willem Schinkel, his commentary on the neoliberal approach to the Covid pandemic.


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