On Friday, June 24, the second annual Hoover Institution Library & Archives Workshop on Political Economy hosted a public lecture by renowned scholar Bruce Caldwell, professor of economics at Duke University and director of Duke's Center for the History of Political Economy. Caldwell is the author of Beyond Positivism: Economic Methodology in the 20th Century, and for the past two decades his research has focused on the writings of Austrian Nobel Prize-winning economist and social theorist Friedrich Hayek, whose papers are housed at the Hoover Institution Library & Archives (L&A). In conjunction with the lecture, Hoover L&A displayed archival material, much of it newly acquired, including Hayek’s baby book, his pocket album and date book from 1914, family photographs, and a postcard sent to Hayek by his intellectual rival, the Cambridge economist John Maynard Keynes.
Caldwell’s lecture provided an overview of Hayek’s life, from the economist’s upbringing within the vibrant coffeehouse culture of turn-of-the-century Austria, to his service in the First World War, and finally to his seminal work at the London School of Economics. Caldwell also provided an overview of the major thematic trends of Hayek’s work, with particular focus on his battle against socialism in the 1930s—an intellectual venture that would help Hayek formulate his best-known book, The Road to Serfdom (1944).
In both his talk and the Q&A session that followed the lecture, Caldwell emphasized the influence of social theorist Karl Popper upon Hayek—a relationship that is especially illuminated in correspondence between the two that originated during the First World War and is now at Hoover.
Caldwell recalled his first visit to the Hoover archives twenty-four years ago, citing the experience of working “with documents in hand” during “a week that transformed my life.” He encouraged scholars visiting Hoover for the Workshop on Political Economy to take full advantage of proximity to rare primary materials that illuminate the lives and works of major economic thinkers of the twenty- and twenty-first centuries.
Organized by Stanford history professor Jennifer Burns, the Workshop on Political Economy brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars who convene at Hoover L&A for a week-long immersion in the archives, taking advantage of the collections of such influential economic thinkers as Hayek, Popper, and Milton Friedman. Participants also attend lunchtime presentations that encourage discussion about the research being conducted.
Professors, lecturers, and doctoral candidates from around the globe exchanged ideas related to the history of economic thought and the rise of libertarian and conservative political movements in the United States and internationally. Topics of their research projects spanned from the history of entrepreneurial self-help in America to the financial engineering of the Sudanese independence movement of the 1950s.
Listen to Dr. Bruce Caldwell's lecture on the Hoover Library & Archives SoundCloud account.