MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE by Daniel Stedman Jones


Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics
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A cerebral, pertinent exegesis on the thinking behind the rise of the New Right.

Jones offers a comparative examination of how the ideas of the Austrian neoliberals Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek and Karl Popper, among others, emerged from their experiences of war, depression, Nazi Germany and communist totalitarianism, and how those ideas translated into strong political currency in the administrations of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. The so-called Mont Pelerin Society was formed in 1947 by a group of like-minded intellectuals, united to “combat the forces of collectivism” (fascism, but also the New Deal) as a threat to individual liberty and free markets. Jones sifts carefully through the group’s influential Cold War–era books, including Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom (1944) and Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945). Jones also traces the transit of the ideas across the Atlantic, with Hayek installed at the University of Chicago, indoctrinating eager students such as Milton Friedman and George Stigler, who further developed neoliberalism in opposition to social spending, activist government and central planning. As the free-market gospel spread, so did conservative think tanks in America—e.g., the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists, founded in 1953 by William F. Buckley Jr., who went on to start the National Review. By chance, they were able to implement their ideas when the stagnation crisis hit in the 1970s. President Carter appointed Paul Volcker to the Federal Reserve and deregulation was under way. Jones does not adequately examine the neoliberal debacle of Pinochet’s Chile, but he does explore the consequent rise of inequality.

Too scholarly for most general readers, but still a valuable study that helps flesh out the caricature of conservatives as only believing “greed is good.”

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-691-15157-1
Page count: 424pp
Publisher: Princeton Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2012


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