The Road and Serfdom: Theorizing the Cultural Politics of Neoliberalism

Part of the Education, Politics, and Public Life book series (EPPL)


When Friedrich von Hayek sat down at the heights of World War II to write his seminal free market manifesto, The Road to Serfdom, he did so seeking a political solution to the rise in state-based totalitarianism that had come to cloak much of Europe (e.g., Hitler in Germany, Stalin in the Soviet Union, Mussolini in Italy, and Franco in Spain). Writing at a time when young Austrians from his homeland were engaged in combative slaughter with soldiers from his new home country of England, Hayek labored to point out how the precepts of extensive state planning would invariably result in the subordination of the individual to the impulses of the state—and thus outlined a critique of planning, humanism, and collectivist utopics. Recounting the political and economic progressions from feudalism, mercantilism, and industrial capitalism, Hayek (1944) argued that centralized state-planned economies were inherently susceptible to authoritarianism and totalitarianism, and that the socialist “dream” was—and could only ever be—a mechanism for reinstituting political hierarchies and thusly constraining individual freedom. Updating earlier neoclassical doctrines such as that of Henry Calvert Simons’ (1934/1948) neoliberal treatise Economic Policy for a Free Society, Hayek (1944) proposed that democracy and deeply participative political systems would always produce bureaucracy and expanded state control—and concurrently subjugate the individual to subordinating forces thereof (toward “serfdom”).


Free Market Bible Belt Foreign Economic Policy American Empire Bush Doctrine 
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© Joshua I. Newman and Michael D. Giardina 2011

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