The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities presents


9 May 2019

Assoc. Prof. Melinda CooperPaleolibertarians and Traditionalist Workers: The Economic Politics of the Alt-Right

Most adherents to the so-called alt-right were nurtured on the work of the Austro-libertarian Murray Rothbard, with his diatribes against the Federal Reserve and fractional reserve banking. In recent years, however, a number of key figures within the movement have begun to mark their distance from libertarianism, turning instead to the far right “anti-capitalism” of Gottfried Feder, the national socialist economist who first inspired Hitler; the social credit theories of C. H. Douglas; and Alain de Benoist, the leading intellectual of the French New Right. These new intellectual horizons have ushered in a dramatic change in political-economic strategy: while the paleolibertarians associated with Rothbard and the Mises Institute hew to a radically secessionist position, seeking ultimately to demolish the Federal Reserve and to restore a world of entirely private money creation based on a pure gold standard, the national socialist elements on the far right are intent on taking over the government and central bank as key institutions of a white, welfarist ethno-state to come.

At first glance, the sudden conversion of so many alt right figures from paleolibertarianism toward a national social or “anti-capitalist” far right, unthinkable only a few years ago, may appear difficult to fathom. Yet it is clearly foreshadowed in the work of paleoconservative scholars who were always more ambivalent about capitalism than their libertarian brethren and who always had their own distinct sense of the strategic long-game. In this paper, I look at the work of the paleoconservative theorist, Samuel T. Francis, along with key converts on the alt-right, to make sense of this turn.

Melinda Cooper is Associate Professor in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Sydney, Australia. She is the author of Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism (Zone Books, 2017) and coeditor, with Martijn Konings, of the Stanford University Press series, Currencies: New Thinking for Financial Times.


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