Book Review: Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism by Quinn Slobodian.

Date01 April 2022
AuthorHare, J. Laurence

Slobodian, Quinn. Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018, Hardcover, $35.00.

Scholarly interest in neoliberalism may have been a little slow to catch on, but it has virtually exploded in the last decade. On the one hand, this trend reflects the perceived success of neoliberal policy at the turn of the century and its close identifications with contemporary notions of globalization. The end of the Cold War, the realignment of mainstream left-wing parties, and the rise of supranational entities such as the World Trade Organization and the European Union would seem to signal the unchallenged dominance of neoliberalism as the bedrock of global integration. On the other hand, scholars have been equally drawn to its increasingly palpable limits, as seen in massive anti-globalization protests, the shockwaves of the Great Recession, the Euro crisis and Brexit, and the emergence of authoritarian populism and hypernationalism. Thus, neoliberal thought, at once a potent model of global order and a fault line of global crisis, has become the subject of much discussion across the social sciences. Historian Quinn Slobodian's Globalists makes a powerful contribution to this growing literature with an intellectual history of neoliberal thought that traces its complex engagement with the dynamic world trends of the twentieth century.

Slobodian is a German specialist by training and an expert on postcolonial history in Europe. His first two books, Foreign Front (2012) and Comrades of Color (2015), expanded the frame of German history by tracing the engagement of both East and West Germany with former European colonies. At first glance, Slobodian appears to invert this previous approach by reducing the analysis of a global movement to a study of European economic thinkers. And his specific emphasis is smaller still, focused on the so-called Geneva School, which at times included such well-known economists as Friedrich Hayek and Gottfried Haberler, but also lesser-known figures such as Wilhelm Ropke, Ludwig von Mises, and Michael Heilperin. Yet

Slobodian ultimately stays true to form by brilliantly relating neoliberal thought to the titanic world events of the century, revealing beyond the book's ostensibly narrow parameters a thoroughly global history. This is evident in the choice of subjects, comprising two generations of mostly Austrians or Germans whose work appeared in the wake of the...

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