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The Great Persuasion

Reinventing Free Markets Since the Depression
Narrated by: Derek Shetterly
Length: 10 hrs and 15 mins
Categories: History, 20th Century

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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.

©2012 The President and Fellows of Harvard College (P)2013 Gildan Media LLC

Critic reviews

"A brilliant rereading of the history of modern conservative thought, which casts each of its key protagonists in new light. The line from Friedrich Hayek to Milton Friedman was no straightforward unfolding of constant neoliberal premises, but a crooked path full of contradictions, contention, and unexpected contingencies. (Daniel T. Rodgers, Author of Age of Fracture)

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  • Patrick
  • 11-02-17

Quite good, broad in scope

Where does The Great Persuasion rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I found this book far more compelling than 'Keynes Hayek', which has a similar theme. I'm broadly familiar with Hayek and Friedman, yet I had never heard of the Mont Pelerin Society - a group founded by Hayek whose members went on to win eight Nobel Prizes. Hearing this story revealed huge gaps of knowledge and filled them in nicely. Among the most important parts was the extent to which 'classical liberals' in the 19th Century were not trying to bring laissez-faire capitalism; they broadly understood it has failed and sought to transcend it, accepting key elements of the welfare state. The chapter on Hayek fighting his own followers - ardent supporters of laissez faire - is even hilarious.

Have you listened to any of Derek Shetterly’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Narrator was clear - clear and direct. He doesn't imitate voices or do anything special, but he's a solid narrator.