How did American and British policymakers become so enamoured with free markets, deregulation, and limited government?
This new book from Daniel Stedman Jones–the first comprehensive transatlantic history of the rise of neoliberal politics–presents a surprising answer. Based on archival research and interviews with leading participants in the movement, Masters of the Universe traces the ascendancy of neoliberalism from the academy of interwar Europe to supremacy under Reagan and Thatcher and in the decades since. Stedman Jones argues that there was nothing inevitable about the victory of free-market politics. Far from being the story of the simple triumph of right-wing ideas, the neoliberal breakthrough was contingent on the economic crises of the 1970s and the acceptance of the need for new policies by the political left.
Masters of the Universe describes neoliberalism’s road to power, beginning in interwar Europe but shifting its centre of gravity after 1945 to the United States, especially to Chicago and Virginia, where it acquired a simple clarity that was developed into an uncompromising political message. Neoliberalism was communicated through a transatlantic network of think tanks, businessmen, politicians, and journalists that was held together by Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. After the collapse of Bretton Woods in 1971, and the ‘stagflation’ that followed, their ideas finally began to take hold as Keynesianism appeared to self-destruct. Later, after the elections of Reagan and Thatcher, a guileless faith in free markets came to dominate politics.
At this seminar we will hear more about some of the ideas in the book and discuss the analysis with commentators from across the political spectrum.