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The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets since the Depression


  • Burgin, Angus

    (Johns Hopkins University)


Just as today’s observers struggle to justify the workings of the free market in the wake of a global economic crisis, an earlier generation of economists revisited their worldviews following the Great Depression. The Great Persuasion is an intellectual history of that project. Angus Burgin traces the evolution of postwar economic thought in order to reconsider many of the most basic assumptions of our market-centered world. Conservatives often point to Friedrich Hayek as the most influential defender of the free market. By examining the work of such organizations as the Mont Pèlerin Society, an international association founded by Hayek in 1947 and later led by Milton Friedman, Burgin reveals that Hayek and his colleagues were deeply conflicted about many of the enduring problems of capitalism. Far from adopting an uncompromising stance against the interventionist state, they developed a social philosophy that admitted significant constraints on the market. Postwar conservative thought was more dynamic and cosmopolitan than has previously been understood. It was only in the 1960s and ’70s that Friedman and his contemporaries developed a more strident defense of the unfettered market. Their arguments provided a rhetorical foundation for the resurgent conservatism of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan and inspired much of the political and economic agenda of the United States in the ensuing decades. Burgin’s brilliant inquiry uncovers both the origins of the contemporary enthusiasm for the free market and the moral quandaries it has left behind.

Suggested Citation

  • Burgin, Angus, 2012. "The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets since the Depression," Economics Books, Harvard University Press, number 9780674058132, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:hup:pbooks:9780674058132

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    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Roger E. Backhouse, 2013. "Responding to economic crisis: macroeconomic revolutions in the 1930s and 1970s," Chapters,in: Before and Beyond the Global Economic Crisis, chapter 2, pages 38-54 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. David Mitch, 2016. "A Year of Transition: Faculty Recruiting at Chicago in 1946," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 124(6), pages 1714-1734.
    3. Jo, Tae-Hee, 2016. "The Social Provisioning Process and Heterodox Economics," MPRA Paper 72384, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. J. Daniel Hammond, 2013. "The Uniqueness of Milton Friedman," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 10(2), pages 184-188, May.
    5. Vlad Tarko, 2017. "Neoliberalism and Regulatory Capitalism: Understanding the "Freer Markets More Rules" Puzzle," Working Paper Series 2017-02, Dickinson College, Department of Economics.
    6. Leonidas Montes & Bruce Caldwell, 2014. "Friedrich Hayek and his Visitis to Chile," Working Papers wp_036, Adolfo Ibáñez University, School of Government.
    7. Bruce Caldwell & Leonidas Montes, 2015. "Friedrich Hayek and his visits to Chile," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer;Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, vol. 28(3), pages 261-309, September.
    8. Todorova, Zdravka, 2014. "From Monetary Theory of Production to Culture-Nature Life Process:Feminist-Institutional Elaborations of Social Provisioning," MPRA Paper 54681, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Kolev Stefan, 2015. "Two interactive masterminds: Hayek′s fluctuating fascination for John Stuart Mill′s system of thought," ORDO. Jahrbuch für die Ordnung von Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, De Gruyter, vol. 66(1), pages 387-396, January.
    10. Ben Fine & Alfredo Saad-Filho & Kate Bayliss & Mary Robertson, 2016. "Thirteen Things You Need to Know about Neoliberalism," Working papers wpaper155, Financialisation, Economy, Society & Sustainable Development (FESSUD) Project.
    11. Thomas I. Palley, 2017. "The general theory at 80: reflections on the history and enduring relevance of Keynes? economics," FMM Working Paper 07-2017, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    12. Kolev Stefan, 2015. "The economist as public intellectual: an endangered species?: Walter Lippmann′s unique public impact as an impulse for today′s economics," ORDO. Jahrbuch für die Ordnung von Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, De Gruyter, vol. 66(1), pages 396-406, January.
    13. Caldwell, Bruce & Montes, Leonidas, 2015. "Friedrich Hayek and his visits to Chile," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 63318, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

    More about this item


    Milton Friedman; Friedrich Hayek; Frank Knight; Mont Pelerin Society; Mont Pèlerin Society; Chicago School; Morality in Economics; Morality vs Economics; Role of Economy in Society; Neoliberalism; Liberalism;

    JEL classification:

    • E6 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook
    • N1 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations


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