Review Essay

A World Safe for Capital

How Neoliberalism Shaped the International System

In This Review

Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism
Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism
By Quinn Slobodian
Harvard University Press, 2018, 400 pp. Purchase

The historian Quinn Slobodian has written a book that is likely to upset enthusiasts of the “liberal world order.” In Globalists, he tells the story of how a small set of intellectuals in central Europe laid the foundations of institutions such as the European Union and the World Trade Organization (WTO), commonly held up today as bulwarks of liberal democracy. Slobodian reveals that these thinkers, who called themselves “neoliberals,” sought to do more than counter fascism and communism, as the conventional wisdom holds. They also wanted to suppress the power of democratic publics. Ordinary people, organized as citizens and workers, posed a grave threat to the neoliberals’ supreme goal: a global economy integrated by the flow of capital.

The main characters in this tale are the intellectuals who orbited the famous economists Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises in the years after World War I. Slobodian dubs this group “the

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