Hoover Institution Press Publishes Mont Pèlerin 1947: Transcripts Of The Founding Meeting Of The Mont Pèlerin Society

Tuesday, March 1, 2022
Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Hoover Institution (Stanford, CA) – The Hoover Institution has published Mont Pèlerin 1947: Transcripts of the Founding Meeting of the Mont Pèlerin Society, edited by Bruce Caldwell, research professor of economics at Duke University and distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution during the academic year 2019—2020.

In April 1947, social theorist Fredrich Hayek invited a circle of thirty-nine economists, historians, and other intellectuals to Mont Pèlerin, a village on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland, for a meeting about the future of classical liberalism at a time when its prospects looked grim. Hayek was worried about the direction (political, social, economic, intellectual, cultural, and moral) of Central Europe after World War II and envisaged an organization that would gather the few remaining proponents of classical liberalism there in hopes that they could help rebuild their wrecked countries.

The luminaries of what came to be known as the Mont Pèlerin Society—including Hayek, Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, Aaron Director, Frank Knight, Walter Eucken, Karl Popper, and others—engaged in lively sessions on topics encompassing economics, society, religion, and the political future.

One of the goals of the meeting was to settle on what ultimately became the group’s mission: to facilitate an exchange of ideas between like-minded scholars in the hopes of strengthening the principles and practice of a free society and to study the workings, virtues, and defects of market-oriented economic systems.

In commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the first meeting of the Mont Pèlerin Society, this volume presents the landmark event’s original transcripts, which are vital primary documents in the history of modern liberalism.

The original notes from this meeting, transcribed by Hayek’s secretary Dorothy Hahn and later annotated by Hayek himself, were deposited with his papers in the Hoover Institution Library & Archives. Now published for the first time, the transcripts reveal the participants’ thoughts, debates, differences, and personalities as they contended with the revitalization of liberalism. The volume also includes rare photographs of the meeting, originally compiled by Arnold Hunold, a Swiss businessman who was a financial supporter and friend of Hayek.

Caldwell, a major scholar of Hayek, provides an informative introduction and explanatory notes to the source documents throughout the volume.

“Bruce Caldwell has skillfully combined modern commentary with historical documents from the very first meeting held by a group of economists and other scholars at the Hotel du Parc in the village of Mont Pèlerin in Switzerland, during the first ten days of April 1947,” writes Hoover senior fellow John Taylor in the book’s foreword. “He not only makes you feel as if you were present at the meeting, he also delivers insight on what we need to do now.”

Mont Pèlerin 1947: Transcripts of the Founding of the Mont Pèlerin Society is available in hardcover and e-book formats. Click here to purchase.

Advance Praise for Mont Pèlerin 1947

“Imagine eavesdropping on one of the most revered and reviled conferences of the twentieth century, the gathering organized by Friedrich Hayek at Mont Pèlerin in 1947. Ever since, commentators have been celebrating or cursing the people attending and the ideas discussed at the famous meeting. Now thanks to Bruce Caldwell you can understand the context, read the discussion, and decide for yourself.”

—Douglas Irwin, professor of economics, Dartmouth College

“In 1947, against the persistent specter of totalitarian regimes in Europe and a loss of faith in free markets among a large share, perhaps a majority, of American intelligentsia, capitalism was in a state of crisis. At the initiative and direction of Friedrich Hayek, in April of that year a group of thirty-nine individuals from Europe and the United Stated gathered in the village of Mont Pèlerin, Switzerland, with the aim of resuscitating the course of liberalism. That meeting would eventuate in the Mont Pèlerin Society, which provided the intellectual foundations of free-market thinking for the remainder of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first century. To mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the 1947 meeting, in this book Bruce Caldwell makes public for the first time the transcripts of that first meeting. Caldwell, the world’s foremost scholar of Hayek’s thinking and writing, complements the carefully edited reproduction of the discussions at that founding meeting with a fascinating account of the events leading up to that gathering.”

—George S. Tavlas, alternate to the governor, Bank of Greece, and distinguished visiting fellow, Hoover Institution

“In 1947, during the aftermath of world crisis, leading thinkers in Europe and the United States came together to diagnose and, more importantly, look forward. This record of their debates and deliberations is well worth reading amid the challenges of today.”

—Jennifer Burns, associate professor of history, Stanford University, and research fellow, Hoover Institution

About the Authors

Bruce Caldwell teaches economics at Duke University, where he is director of the Center for the History of Political Economy. He is a leading scholar on the life and ideas of the Nobel laureate and social theorist F. A. Hayek.

John B. Taylor is the George P. Shultz Senior Fellow in Economics at the Hoover Institution and the Mary and Robert Raymond Professor of Economics at Stanford University. He was president of the Mont Pèlerin Society from 2018 to 2020.

For coverage opportunities, contact Jeffrey Marschner, 202-760-3187, jmarsch [at] stanford.edu.