Robin Murray

Published on 31 May 2017

It was with huge sadness that we received the news about Robin Murray’s untimely death at the weekend.

Robin was a Fellow at the Institute for two decades, between 1972 and 1993. He was an exceptional colleague and friend and he had a profound impact on the Institute’s teaching, research, policy impact and collegiality.

Robin’s contribution to ‘teaching’ was transformative. He used the Socratic method to build analytical capabilities and a thirst for learning amongst students. In so doing he played a pivotal role in overturning the culture of grandstanding lectures which dominated teaching programmes at the time. The views of every student were valued, held up for discussion and used to build  awareness and critical capabilities. Amongst other attributes he had the capacity to build insight through the use of metaphor, whether this was ‘the global law of value knocking at the door’ (i.e. competition in trade) or the ‘conducting an orchestra of talented musicians’ (ie building policy consensus). But it was not just Robin’s students who were stimulated and energised by his vitality and enthusiasm. All of his colleagues – academic and support staff – were treated with the same deep respect and felt the glow of his aura and charm, even when they differed from his approach or conclusions.

Robin’s contributions to knowledge covered a wide range of connected interests which helped so many of his students and colleagues to build a world view of macro developments and to understand their connection to micro processes and events. His work spanned Marxian theory, the development and spread of transnational corporations and globalisation, transfer pricing, industrial policy, the cooperative movement, local development, the labour process, flexible specialisation and (more recently after he left the IDS in 1993) the circular economy and the dynamics of the state.

During his two decades at IDS Robin initiated and led a series of major policy collaborations. For a time, he was seconded to the Greater London Economic Council as the leader of a team working on industrial policy. This was followed by leading and inspiring extended programmes of industrial policy support in Cyprus, Ethiopia and Jamaica. He was a co-founder and active director of Twin Trading and a vocal promoter of Fairtrade.

We were fortunate to have been stimulated by and to have benefited from his exceptional capabilities, his charisma, his intellect and his warmth. He will be sorely missed by all who came directly into contact with him, and by those who benefited from the resultant ripples. When you were with Robin, you felt as though you were at the centre of the universe.