The Road To Serfdom.


The Road To Serfdom.

HAYEK, Friedrich August von [F.A.].


Item Number: 135374

London: Routledge & Sons, 1944.

Friedrich August von Hayek’s first edition personal copy of one of the most influential books of the twentieth century and the most popular exposition of classical liberalism ever published. Octavo, original cloth. Hayek’s personal copy with his ownership name to the front free endpaper, “F.A. Hayek” and notation, “published March 10th, 1944” and list of 12 early critical reviews of the book to the verso of the rear endpaper, “Reviews: Tablet 11/3/44 (Douglas Woodruff); Sunday Times 12/3 (1 or 2 volumes) Harold Hobson 2. 9/4 (G.M. Young); Birmingham Post 14/3 (T.W.H); Yorkshire Post 29/3; Financial News 30/3; Listener 30/3; Daily Sketch 30/3; Times Literary Suppl. 1/4; Spectator 31/3 M. Polanzi; Irish Times 25/3; Observer 9/4 (George Orwell); Manchester Guardian 14/4 (W).” As a powerful challenge to the developing establishment consensus on both sides of the Atlantic for a proactive role for the state, The Road to Serfdom entrenched Hayek’s status as a strong voice of the libertarian right. Written during the wartime period when the London School of Economics, where Hayek had taught since 1931, was evacuated to Cambridge, the work was written to address the likely mode of government in Post-War Britain, yet proved to be much more widely applicable. Fearing the growing enthusiasm for state intervention and planning in 1940s Britain and its similarities to the roots of Nazi tyranny, Hayek argued that it would be impossible for a planned economy to mimic the complexities of the free market (in which information is naturally widely dispersed) and that, in their attempt to gather the information and resources needed to establish an efficient market, planners would be pushed towards an ever-increasing accumulation of power. This accumulation of information and power would, Hayek argued, lead inexorably towards totalitarianism, leading the nation down a “road to serfdom.” Hayek’s politics left him in a somewhat lonely position in the middle decades of the 20th century. When Churchill claimed during the 1945 General Election campaign that the Labour party would need “some sort of Gestapo” to fulfill its commitments to a Welfare State, this outburst was blamed on Hayek, and The Road to Serfdom was ferociously attacked by the New Dealers in the United States. The book received both praise and criticism upon publication in 1944. In his April 9, 1944 review in the Observer (a year before the publication of Animal Farm), George Orwell stated “By bringing the whole of life under the control of the State, Socialism necessarily gives power to an inner ring of bureaucrats, who in almost every case will be men who want power for its own sake and will stick at nothing in order to retain it. Britain, he says, is now going the same road as Germany, with the left-wing intelligentsia in the van and the Tory Party a good second. The only salvation lies in returning to an unplanned economy, free competition, and emphasis on liberty rather than on security. In the negative part of Professor Hayek’s thesis there is a great deal of truth. It cannot be said too often – at any rate, it is not being said nearly often enough – that collectivism is not inherently democratic, but, on the contrary, gives to a tyrannical minority such powers as the Spanish Inquisitors never dreamed of.” Yet, being true to his leftist leanings, Orwell also professed that he could not endorse Hayek’s program: “Professor Hayek is also probably right in saying that in this country the intellectuals are more totalitarian-minded than the common people. But he does not see, or will not admit, that a return to “free” competition means for the great mass of people a tyranny probably worse, because more irresponsible, than that of the State. The trouble with competitions is that somebody wins them. Professor Hayek denies that free capitalism necessarily leads to monopoly, but in practice that is where it has led, and since the vast majority of people would far rather have State regimentation than slumps and unemployment, the drift towards collectivism is bound to continue if popular opinion has any say in the matter …Capitalism leads to dole queues, the scramble for markets, and war. Collectivism leads to concentration camps, leader worship, and war. There is no way out of this unless a planned economy can somehow be combined with the freedom of the intellect, which can only happen if the concept of right and wrong is restored to politics.” With Hayek’s corrections in pencil to pages 39 and 111, marginal notes in pencil to pages 130-131 and 137, marginal note in pen to page 107, and a newspaper clipping of a satirical poem on ‘World Planners’ to the front pastedown. Also with an autograph manuscript transcription in Hayek’s hand on his King’s College, Cambridge letterhead of Morris Bishop’s ‘For the Tomb of Economic Man’ which appeared in the September 12, 1942 issue of The New Yorker Magazine laid in. Near fine in the scarce original dust jacket which is in very good condition. Housed in a custom full morocco clamshell box.

"Hayek has written one of the most important books of our generation. It restates for our time the issue between liberty and authority with the power and rigor of reasoning that John Stuart Mill stated in his great essay, ‘On Liberty’" (Hazlitt, 82), but in the decades that followed Hayek was key to bringing reinvigorated free-market ideas back to the intellectual and political mainstream. Hayek’s powerful critique of the planned economy and his moral defense of capitalism caused a sensation when it was published on March 10, 1944. The first edition of 20,000 copies sold out almost immediately. An American edition followed in September 1944, and the book reached a much wider audience through the condensed version that appeared in Reader’s Digest in April 1945. As a powerful challenge to the developing establishment consensus on both sides of the Atlantic for a pro-active role for the state, the book entrenched Hayek’s status as a strong voice of the libertarian right. The Road to Serfdom has sold some 2 million copies in 20 languages and is widely cited as one of the most influential books of the 20th century.

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