1 June 2022

Locating Ludwig von Mises

Special Issue in the Journal of the History of Ideas.

This special issue is a first effort at locating the Austrian economist and political philosopher Ludwig von Mises in his galaxy of influence.


Niklas Olsen, Quinn Slobodian

This introduction introduces the special issue and summarizes the papers included here. It offers an overview of the placement of Mises in existing scholarship and an outline of the more recent globalization of Mises as the figurehead of an occasionally authoritarian libertarianism through the eponymous Mises institutes that have recently been established worldwide.

The Politics of Rationality in Early Neoliberalism

Max Weber, Ludwig von Mises, and the Socialist Calculation Debate

William Callison

Initiated by Mises and popularized by Hayek, the socialist calculation debate staked a political position on a methodological axiom: the "irrationality" of state planning. This article argues that Weber's typology of "formal" vs. "substantive" rationality at once drew from Austrian School marginalism and helped frame Mises and Hayek's critiques in the calculation debate. In turn, this debate shaped an anti-socialist front among the early neoliberals before their vaunted gatherings in Paris and Mont Pèlerin. Through social scientific interventions, early neoliberalism split economics (qua market rationality) from politics (qua social justice) so as to place the latter beyond the epistemological pale.

Two Types of Separation

Ludwig von Mises and German Neoliberalism

Joshua Rahtz

Ludwig von Mises and the main figures of German ordoliberalism represent the two extreme points on the spectrum of neoliberal thinking in the twentieth century. This paper provides a comparative analysis of Mises and the Germans. Among other things, it shows how Mises and the ordoliberals held contradictory positions regarding central bank responses to the crisis of the late 1920s, the definition of the categories of the political and the economic, and above all how the latter was to be separated from the former in practice.

Repurposing Mises

Murray Rothbard and the Birth of Anarchocapitalism

Jacob Jensen

This article examines how Murray Rothbard, though he claimed to follow Ludwig von Mises very closely, ended up making a number of radical leaps that Mises never did. It argues that Rothbard constructed anarchocapitalism by repurposing Mises's economic theory. First, whereas Mises responded to interwar socialism, Rothbard redeployed his mentor's economics in response to the militarism of the right-wing. Second, whereas Mises defended the market as a consumers' democracy against ideas about economic democracy, Rothbard developed an anti-democratic view of the market in response to the egalitarianism of the counterculture. These differences in context account for the distinctiveness of anarchocapitalism.

Neoliberal Economic Thinking and the Quest for Rational Socialism in China

Ludwig von Mises and the Market Reform Debate

Isabella M. Weber

This paper investigates the long first decade of reform in China (1978–1992) to show that Mises became relevant to the reconfiguration of China's political economy in this period. Mises's critique of socialism came to be debated throughout the 1980s and Chinese economists developed their own reading of Mises and the socialist calculation debate. When Deng Xiaoping reinstated market reforms in the early 1990s, a history of thought review of the possibility of rational socialism and socialist markets helped to justify the Socialist Market Economy with Chinese Characteristics as the official designation of China's economic system to this day.