The relationship between neoliberals and the state is one that has been endlessly debated. Are neoliberals anti-statist? Or are they advocates of a strong state? The seeming vagueness of neoliberalism has led some to even call for the word’s abolition. However, Quinn Slobodian
, in his new book, Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism
(Harvard University Press, 2018) shakes this debate up and reconceptualizes the history of neoliberalism in the process. The neoliberals that he tracks weren’t opposed to the state per se, but rather, to the nation
-state. European neoliberals, such as Lionel Robbins and Friedrich Hayek, instead sought to scale up governance beyond the nation-state and establish supranational institutions and laws that would hem in the power of democratic majorities around the world.
Slobodian, an associate professor of European and the world history at Wellesley College, also situates the history of neoliberalism in a forgotten yet critically important global context: decolonization. He also shows how neoliberal thinking shaped how the economy was and continues to be governed. The book will interest historians of ideas, of global politics, and of capitalism, along with anyone wanting a more textured idea of what neoliberalism has looked like historically.
Dexter Fergie is a first-year PhD student of US and global history at Northwestern University. He is currently researching the 20th-century geopolitical history of information and communications networks. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DexterFergie.