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Globalists

The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism

Quinn Slobodian

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Harvard Uni.Press Academi
07 April 2020
George Louis Beer Prize Winner Wallace K. Ferguson Prize Finalist A Marginal Revolution Book of the Year ?

A groundbreaking contribution?

Intellectual history at its best.? ?

Stephen Wertheim, Foreign Affairs Neoliberals hate the state. Or do they? In the first intellectual history of neoliberal globalism, Quinn Slobodian follows a group of thinkers from the ashes of the Habsburg Empire to the creation of the World Trade Organization to show that neoliberalism emerged less to shrink government and abolish regulations than to redeploy them at a global level. It was a project that changed the world, but was also undermined time and again by the relentless change and social injustice that accompanied it.

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Slobodian's lucidly written intellectual history traces the ideas of a group of Western thinkers who sought to create, against a backdrop of anarchy, globally applicable economic rules. Their attempt, it turns out, succeeded all too well.? ?

Pankaj Mishra, Bloomberg Opinion ?

Fascinating, innovative?

Slobodian has underlined the profound conservatism of the first generation of neoliberals and their fundamental hostility to democracy.? ?

Adam Tooze, Dissent ?

The definitive history of neoliberalism as a political project.? ?

Boston Review
By:   Quinn Slobodian
Imprint:   Harvard Uni.Press Academi
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 210mm,  Width: 140mm, 
ISBN:   9780674244849
ISBN 10:   0674244842
Pages:   400
Publication Date:   07 April 2020
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Quinn Slobodian is Associate Professor of History at Wellesley College.

Reviews for Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism

Beginning with the breakup of the Hapsburg Empire, Slobodian's lucidly written intellectual history traces the ideas of a group of Western thinkers who sought to create, against a backdrop of anarchy, globally applicable economic rules. Their attempt, it turns out, succeeded all too well in our own time. We stand in the ruins of their project, confronting political, economic and environmental crises of unprecedented scale and size. It is imperative to chart our way out of them, steering clear of the diversions offered by political demagogues. One can only hope that the new year will bring more intellectual heresies of the kind...Slobodian's book embod[ies]. We need them urgently to figure out what comes after neoliberalism.-- (12/24/2018) [A] fantastic intellectual history of neo-liberalism in the international arena... Slobodian's book is excellent history... It offers a fresh and exciting new vantage point on an important set of global developments, drawing on important and under-utilized archival resources. It also implicitly pushes back at the romanticism of ideas that is core to the standard story of neo-liberalism.-- (05/03/2018) Well-executed, engaging, and important. This is by far the best book I have read on neoliberalism, ever.--Bruce Caldwell, Duke University A remarkable study, elegant and lucid. Slobodian's complete mastery of his subject is evident.--Angus Burgin, Johns Hopkins University Masterful...Slobodian corrects erroneous assumptions about neoliberal theory...The neoliberal theorists resemble Arendt's Eichmann in their dehumanizing of humans and seeming obliviousness to the human condition.--Judith Deutsch CounterPunch (04/08/2019) Imagine a novel and interesting coverage of the post-war Austrian School, here relabeled the 'Geneva School, ' a well-done partial history of the WTO and EU, and a book where the central characters are not only Mises and Hayek, but also Alexander Rustow, Wilhelm Roepke, and Michael Heilperin.--Tyler Cowen Marginal Revolution (02/22/2018) Contrary to popular assumption, Mises, Hayek, and many of their heirs did not actually trust capital to manage itself unimpeded: The economic 'freedom' they desired, in practice, required extreme, top-down measures to curtail democracy.--Atossa Abrahamian Bookforum (09/01/2018) [A] magnificent history of neoliberalism...Offers a rich, lucid, and illuminating genealogy of neoliberal theory and practice, from its inception after World War I to the formation of the World Trade Organization.--Eugene McCarraher Commonweal (10/19/2018) [A] fascinating book... [Slobodian] writes with elegance and clarity.--Deirdre Nansen McCloskey Literary Review (04/01/2018) Represents a step forward in scholarship on neoliberalism. It deserves to be widely read not merely by historians interested in the twentieth century, but by anyone looking for more depth and broader context on the populist uprisings reshaping global relations today...To know this history is not just necessary but urgent.-- (12/01/2018) Flat-out brilliant.--Andy Seal Society for U.S. Intellectual History blog (06/11/2018) Heraclitus warned us that 'no man can stand in the same river twice, for it is not the same river, ' yet the temptation to do so is strong when it comes to the history of ideas. Viewing the liberalism of today as simply a return to earlier ideas is similarly tempting, but wrong. Slobodian's investigation of how 'Geneva school' liberals sought to reinvent global liberalism so that capitalism could be made safe from democracy is a fundamental recasting of what modern liberalism is and from whence it came, forcing all of us who theorize on capitalism to rethink the very object of our study.--Mark Blyth, Brown University This powerful headlong dive into the history of neoliberalism necessitates rethinking the ways of perpetuating an idea central to the 20th and 21st centuries...Globalists should be required reading for graduate students and scholars whose interests intersect with 20th-century Europe, economic history, and, most broadly, the history of ideas.--D. N. Nelson Choice (08/01/2018) [A] sweeping intellectual history of neoliberalism...Globalists is the work of an historian that relishes the opportunity to excavate, like an archaeologist, the fossils of an idea...As Slobodian's book makes clear, global economic integration in its neoliberal form cannot allow for democracy, because it is precisely predicated on protecting the market from democracies.--Ayan Meer New Politics (08/24/2018) The term neoliberalism provokes much choleric denial. But Quinn Slobodian's Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism decisively establishes it as a coherent project, tracing it back to the political and intellectual synergies of the 1920s.-- (07/07/2018) A book that is likely to upset enthusiasts of the 'liberal world order.'...Slobodian makes a groundbreaking contribution. Unlike standard accounts, which cast neoliberals as champions of markets against governments and states, Slobodian argues that neoliberals embraced governance--chiefly at the global level...Globalists is intellectual history at its best.-- (05/01/2019) [Globalists] is important because it provides a new frame for the history of this movement. For Slobodian, the earliest and most authentic brand of neoliberalism was from the outset defined by its preoccupation with the question of world economic integration and disintegration...Slobodian gives us not only a new history of neoliberalism but a far more diverse image of global policy debates after 1945...It is a measure of the success of this fascinating, innovative history that it forces the question: after Slobodian's reinterpretation, where does the critique of neoliberalism stand? First and foremost, Slobodian has underlined the profound conservatism of the first generation of neoliberals and their fundamental hostility to democracy.-- (07/01/2018) [Globalists] puts to rest the idea that 'neoliberal' lacks a clear referent. As Slobodian meticulously documents, the term has been used since the 1920s by a distinct group of thinkers and policymakers who are unified both by a shared political vision and a web of personal and professional links... Slobodian definitively establishes the existence of neoliberalism as a coherent intellectual project--one that, at the very least, has been well represented in the circles of power... One of Slobodian's great insights is that the neoliberal program was not simply a move in the distributional fight, but rather about establishing a social order in which distribution was not a political question at all. For money and markets to be the central organizing principle of society, they have to appear natural--beyond the reach of politics... Slobodian has written the definitive history of neoliberalism as a political project.-- (06/01/2018) The world today works in a distinctive and relatively new way, and those workings need a name. Its critics are right that neoliberalism has multiple meanings and can be used in a way that is more pejorative than precise. But it also has an intellectual genealogy with real bearing on our time, making a careful reconstruction of its history essential to understanding our global economy. Quinn Slobodian provides exactly that in Globalists, showing how neoliberal ideas grew from particular historical circumstances to global influence, while also correcting certain misconceptions about neoliberalism's meaning and goals.-- (05/01/2018) One of the invaluable services provided by Quinn Slobodian's Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism is to trace this anti-democratic tendency's theoretical origins, and demonstrate how for generations, ultra-market intellectuals have viewed democracy as a potential threat to the market...Slobodian's book is at its most engaging when he shows in detail the practically metaphysical dignity the neoliberals bestow upon the market.--Jordan Ecker American Prospect (07/03/2019) [The] most important story of the rise of neoliberalism cannot be found in the books and lectures by theorists like David Harvey, Michel Foucault, Wendy Brown, or Werner Bonefeld. It is, as far as I can tell, only in Slobodian's Globalists.-- (07/17/2018)


  • Short-listed for Wallace K. Ferguson Prize 2019 (United States)
  • Winner of George Louis Beer Prize 2019 (United States)

See Also