The latest Tweets from Angus Burgin (@angusburgin). historian at Johns Hopkins. Baltimore. This question animates The Great Persuasion, Angus Burgin’s exceptional transatlantic history of ‘free market advocacy’ during the 20th century. To tell his story. The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets since the Depression [Angus Burgin] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Just as.

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The social and economic landscape of the United States shifted significantly after the financial crash of The ensuing downturn led both businesses and consumers to face severe restrictions on their access to credit. The subprime mortgage crisis changed the nature of home ownership for many Americans. Growth rates and unemployment figures became the subjects of intense political debate.

What were the intellectual phenomena that allowed North American and Western European politicians to develop an almost unquestioning faith in the benevolence of financial deregulation before the onset of the crisis? Burgin deftly weaves three separate yet intertwined narratives in the book, two of which are biographical, and one institutional. He fleshes out the signal contributions of the economists Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, but also places these formidable figures within an institutional framework: However, Burgin avoids plotting a linear narrative of the evolution of free market ideas and their subsequent influence.

Instead, he is fully aware of historical contingency, and perceptively points out the roads not taken and opportunities missed in the development of free market advocacy during the 20th century. The book starts by identifying the clusters of intellectuals amongst whom opposition to the Depression-era climate of government intervention originated. Meanwhile, a similar constellation of free market ideas emerged at the University of Chicago, where Frank Knight, Henry Simons and Jacob Viner all became associated with vigorous opposition to the economic policies of Franklin D.

London and Chicago were therefore the generative institutional contexts for free market advocacy.

However, there was no clear philosophical or political agreement amongst the intellectuals who made up this emerging transatlantic network, which points to the first of two major contingencies highlighted by Burgin in the early stages of his book. The term has become an academic buzzword in recent years, and is most frequently used by opponents of free market ideas to characterise a philosophical orientation towards unrestricted implementation of the market mechanism.


Based on a detailed reconstruction of this linguistic context, Burgin ultimately suggests that:. The history of the latter must resist the temptation of assumed continuities, and the history of the former must do more to account for the theoretical divergence between the two p. In historicising the concept of neoliberalism, Burgin not only tells a fascinating story, but also cautions those seeking to understand the intellectual underpinnings of contemporary free market ideology to employ the term in full knowledge of its original usage and subsequent shifts in meaning within British and American political discourse.

The second contingency pointed out by Burgin in the opening chapters of The Great Persuasion concerns the role free market intellectuals perceived for themselves in the public sphere.

Even as his reputation as a key opponent of Keynesianism grew during the s, Hayek remained reluctant to intervene directly in policy discussions. This conviction was rooted in the belief that the power of economics as a discipline came from its resistance to popularisation.

During the s and s, then, free market advocates proved reluctant to engage in tangible advocacy in contexts other than those provided by academia. As Burgin notes, in early Cold War American intellectual culture, conservative ideas were often seen as irrational, and were assumed to have no place in the mainstream. They were assisted in achieving this goal by the provision of funding from a series of sympathetic charitable foundations.

This was most apparent in the interactions that took place during the late s and early s between various members of the organisation and figures involved with the conservative magazine National Review. Its editor, William F. In making these links, Burgin brings his research into fruitful conversation with the flourishing body of recent scholarship on American conservatism by scholars such as Corey Robin, Jennifer Burns and Kim Phillips-Fein. However, the author also demonstrates that the relationship between free market advocates and conservatives was not always harmonious.

Indeed, its influence grew to such an extent that between and seven out of 24 awardees of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences were members p.

However, the Society was also an unpredictable intellectual catalyst: These positions, along with the resourceful methods Friedman used anhus propagate them, helped him to develop significant influence in the public policy arena. This success was also due to the ingenious simplicity of his approach, which meant that virtually every contemporary policy problem had a free market solution, at least in theory.


Friedman continued to offer advice to political office-seekers, and was more successful inwhen Ronald Reagan won a landslide victory against incumbent Jimmy Carter on a platform that wholeheartedly embraced free market rhetoric.

Angus Burgin – Google Scholar Citations

First, the author goes to great lengths to position Friedman in relation to a long and diffuse tradition of free market advocacy. As such, one is left wondering whether these organisations would just as easily have been able to launch another thrusting economist into the stratosphere of widespread public recognition.

This burvin becomes even more apparent when we take the analysis of Princeton historian Daniel Rodgers into account.

An answer to this question may have been provided had Burgin paid more attention to the process by which free market ideas became popularised. Was Friedman angis adept at managing his public persona that he remained in control of his intellectual legacy even angis he became a household name? Or, was his thirst for public recognition such that he did not care that a range of conservative figures were adopting his theories and putting their own, often idiosyncratic, spin on them?

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In assessing the contribution of such a policy-oriented intellectual tradition, it might have been worth considering whether Friedman would have been content with the legacies his advocacy came to inspire.

Nonetheless, The Great Persuasion is a tremendous contribution to the intellectual history of 20th-century capitalism. Contemporary proponents of alternatives to the deregulatory status quo — whether of a Keynesian or more radical stripe — should find some sustenance from this conclusion, in what is otherwise a gloomy narrative of intellectual defeat.

Skip to main content. Reinventing Free Markets since the Depression. Reinventing Free Markets since the Depressionreview no. Based on a detailed reconstruction of this linguistic context, Burgin ultimately suggests that: Back to 2 The author is happy to accept this burin and does not wish to comment further.