Masters of the Universe (book)

''Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics'' is a 2012 book by barrister Daniel Stedman Jones, in which the author traces the intellectual development and political rise of neoliberalism in the United States and the United Kingdom. Originally a PhD thesis, the author adapted it into a book.

According to Jones, neoliberalism began after the Great Depression as a movement of intellectuals committed to protecting liberal values of individual liberty and limited government, which they believed were threatened in Britain and the United States by expanding government. They aimed to construct a distinctly new liberalism (hence "neo"-liberalism) by charting a middle way between the laissez-faire economics of the pre-Depression era and the "collectivism" of New Deal liberalism and British social democracy. He argues that between the 1950s and 1970s this commitment evolved into one of greater conviction in the superiority of the free market, such that by the 1980s neoliberal policy proposals centered almost entirely around market liberalization. Modern neoliberalism, according to Jones, is associated with economic liberalism, monetarism, and a staunch support of free market capitalism, and advocates political policies of deregulation, privatization, and other market-based reforms.

Jones structures the book around what he argues are the three phases of the history of neoliberalism. In the first, lasting from roughly 1920 until 1950, he details how early European neoliberal thinkers like Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Karl Popper, motivated by expanding government and later the rise of totalitarian regimes in Europe during World War II, developed critiques of "collectivism", which to them included British social democracy and American New Deal liberalism. Particularly influential during this time was the formation of the Mont Pelerin Society, which brought together intellectuals committed to the defense of liberalism and individualism. In the second phase, lasting from roughly 1950 until 1980, the locus of neoliberal thought moved to the United States, where academics like Milton Friedman and George Stigler built upon the earlier neoliberal foundation by developing new academic and political arguments and introducing a range of neoliberal policy prescriptions. It was during this time that Jones contends neoliberal thought evolved from its more moderate early stance into a "faith" in the power and efficiency of markets. Jones argues that during this period a transatlantic network of intellectuals, businessmen, journalists, and think tanks arose to promote neoliberal ideology, slowly moving neoliberalism out of the political fringes and into the mainstream. The third phase, taking place after 1980, is the period of neoliberal political prominence. After a decade of stagflation in the United States and the United Kingdom, the neoliberal alternative to the Keynesian economic consensus that had dominated politics was adopted by politicians, finding particular influence with US president Ronald Reagan and British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. This era, Jones notes, was characterized by sweeping deregulation, market liberalization, and tax reductions. Provided by Wikipedia
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    Published 2001
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