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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. Daniel 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. This edition includes a new foreword in which the author addresses the relationship between intellectual history and the history of politics and policy.
Fascinating, important, and timely, this is a book for anyone who wants to understand the history behind the Anglo-American love affair with the free market, as well as the origins of the current economic crisis.
In impressive fashion, Jones analyzes the impact of free market economics and deregulation on political leaders in Washington, D.C., and London since the 1970s. According to Jones, when New Deal and Keynesian solutions could not reverse 1970s stagflation, "neoliberals" like Milton Friedman stepped in to influence policy, stressing money, interest rates, and inflation, rather than government regulation or spending. To the enduring dismay of the left, this approach seemed to ignite renewed and sustained prosperity. Jones disapproves of neoliberalism as it has hardened into faith since the days of Thatcher and Reagan, and deplores the rise of a political culture in both countries that is "unable to escape a fantasy world in which free markets solved everything." After soft-pedaling Clinton and Blair as deregulation's great Third Way champions, he finishes with an unnecessary attack on the American Tea Party and the British Conservatives' "radical" health and education program. The theme of neoliberalism will confuse readers who consider Hayek and Friedman founders of economic conservatism and whose photographs, along with Thatcher's and Reagan's, grace the cover. Still, anyone intrigued by the intersection of economic theory and political affairs will appreciate this learned, detailed book.