One of the most influential and popular expositions of classical liberalism ever published first appeared in March of 1944.
The Road to Serfdom was first published in London by Routledge & Sons in March 1944 in the midst of World War II, and due to the book’s popularity during this time of paper rationing, Hayek jokingly referred to it as “that unobtainable book” (Ebenstein, 2003). It preceded the first American edition which was published later that same year in September.
The title, The Road to Serfdom, was inspired by the writings of French classical liberal thinker Alexis de Tocqueville and his notion of the “road to servitude.” In The Road to Serfdom, Anglo-Austrian economist and philosopher Friedrich August von Hayek presented the argument that Western democracies, including both those of the United States and United Kingdom, had “progressively abandoned that freedom in economic affairs without which personal and political freedom has never existed in the past.”
He further asserted that that it was a mistake, on society’s part, to encourage prosperity through centralized planning, and that this would lead to totalitarianism. These concepts have had a significant impact on twentieth century conservative and libertarian economic and political discourse and introduced a lucid exposition of market libertarianism.
Another key concept of the work was Hayek’s deviation from the contemporary British academy which saw fascism as a capitalist reaction against socialism. He argued instead that fascism and socialism result from central economic planning and the power of the state over the individual.
He further developed these philosophical principles in Law, Legislation and Liberty (widely considered his magnum opus) and, later, The Constitution of Liberty. Hayek was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics and Sciences in 1974, for his “pioneering work in the theory of money and economic fluctuations and penetrating analysis of the interdependence of economic, social and institutional phenomena.”
In in addition to the works above, browse the many important works written, signed and inscribed by Hayek currently in our collection here.