Mises and Hayek in Progress in Human Geography

10 June 2009 at 12:27 pm 2 comments

| Nicolai Foss |

It is surprising, even bizarre, to see Mises and Hayek, as well as other luminaries of 20th-century classical liberalism, being extensively cited, quoted, and discussed in one of the leading geography journals, Progress in Human Geography (here is the wiki on the field of “human geography”), specifically in the form of the printed version of an invited lecture by Jamie Peck.

Here is the abstract of “Remaking Laissez-Faire”:

Only ideas can overcome ideas’, Ludwig von Mises once remarked. Exploring this contention in relation to the long and winding ascendancy of neoliberalism, the paper presents a spatialized genealogy of the free-market ideational programme. From its multiple beginnings, in a series of situated, sympathetic critiques of nineteenth-century laissez-faire, neoliberalism has always been an open-ended, plural and adaptable project. The prehistories of neoliberalism are messy and nonlinear; there was no straight-line evolution from ideas to implementation, from blueprint to ballot box, or philosophy to practice. Rather like the various state projects of neoliberalization that have followed in its wake, the ideational project of neoliberalism was clearly a constructed one. There was nothing spontaneous about neoliberalism; it was speculatively planned, it was opportunistically built and it has been repeatedly reconstructed.

The paper pits Karl Polanyi (Michael’s brother) against the Austrians and other proponents of classical liberalism, or, to borrow a term the author insists on (and makes a point out of), “neo-liberals.” (The “neo-liberal” label is almost always a sure signal that the author is a lefty, and in this case, too, the signal appears to be reliable).

The reason the paper appears in a (human) geography journal apparently is that a key point in it is that the “remaking of laissez-faire” involved a “series of ‘local’, but interconnected, neoliberalisms” (p. 33). This is nothing new to the student of re-emergence of classical liberalism in the post-war period. In general the paper is disappointingly devoid of substantial new insights. Rather obvious claims are presented as deep and significant, for example, that “There was nothing spontaneous about neoliberalism; it was speculatively planned, it was opportunistically built and it has been repeatedly reconstructed.” Well, nobody has claimed otherwise.

HT to Pierre Desrochers.

Entry filed under: - Foss -, Austrian Economics, Classical Liberalism.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Michael E. Marotta  |  12 June 2009 at 9:30 am

    Jamie Peck transgresses the boundaries of transformative hermeneutics. His new age slang about kaleidoscopic fun house mirrors infinitely distorting the bloated image of neoliberalism is a 30-page run of self-indulgent neologisms as cliches.

    In a rare, lucid paragraph Peck claims: “Freedom’s utter frustration in fascism’ was, in fact, the ‘inevitable result’ of nineteenth-century liberalism’s antisocial vision (Polanyi, 1944: 265). The ‘market mentality’, Polanyi (1947) later concluded, had been rendered ‘obsolete’ by these historical developments.”

    Fascism arose because liberalism was anti-social? The market mentality became obsolete?

    Reading internet links about Dr. Peck’s career, it is clear that he publishes often and travels widely. Thus, he takes the computer and jetliner for granted. Therefore, he is confident of his own ability to prescribe for the “retooling” of the “urban growth machine.” I suggest that in honor of Leonard Read, Jamie Peck should demonstrate his skill by retooling a pencil factory.

    Mike M.
    Michael E. Marotta

  • 2. matthias  |  13 October 2013 at 8:49 am

    Human Geography, even Economic Geography, is part of the the whole (forced) misinterpretations about neoliberalism at universities.

    The word “neoliberalism” itself is used as a battle cry used by leftwing influenced academics. Beeing at the end of my Masters in “Urban and Regional Development”, I am still not sure, if these scholars don´t know better, or if they just got ulterior motives by telling the wrong story over and over again.

    In seminars, the scholars faked debates about “neoliberalism”, unfortunatly the results of this “debates” were set before it even began. The only sources the students were forced to read were weirdo marxists, like Paul Harvey, the messiah of the new enlightend geography movement against big business and exploitation.

    Maybe it was the moment, when Milton Friedman said “the world is flat”, when geographers started their war on liberalism as a whole.

    Geographers don´t like to sit in ther academic ivory towers and just explain the WHY of spontaneous rises and falls of industries and regions like the Silicon Valley. They really like to copy the spontaneous human actions and make plans how space has to be organized. They want to give implications for politics, they want to create muliple Silicon Valleys – as we observe they fail, maybe Liberalism will come back even in Geography and explain why they fail by doing so…

    Regards from Germany

    Btw: you have to read this article: “Evolutionary Economic Geography meets Austrian Economics”


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