Hayek has spent the last few chapters of The Road to Serfdom explaining the roots and rise of totalitarian governments. In chapter twelve, Hayek highlighted prominent Marxist theorists who would later lay the roots for the German National Socialist party.
Hayek’s whole purpose in writing this chapter, “The Totalitarians in Our Midst,” serves as a warning to his readers. The mass death of WWII had devastated and shocked the world. But unless individuals were able to identify how totalitarianism had taken over Europe in the first place, they would be ill-prepared to prevent it from happening again.
It was for this reason that Hayek uses chapter thirteen to demonstrate to his readers that a similar perversion of truth was already occurring among England’s intellectual elite as had occurred in the leadup to the Third Reich.
Individualism in Danger
England, which, as explained in the last chapter, represented the origin of individualist thought, had steadily been heading down a similar road as Germany had in the decades prior to WWII. While it may have taken a different form, when looked at from the perspective of totalitarianism in all things economic, England, as it stood in 1944, had taken swift strides away from liberalism and instead found itself headed in the direction of complete central authority.
It is for this reason that Hayek’s writing sounds so urgent in this chapter. As fresh as WWII was in the minds of all people, Hayek is urging them to not become complacent. It was not enough to mourn the recent past; they needed to proceed vigilantly and look to the enemies in their own nations.
As Hayek writes:
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