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The Road to Serfdom | [Friedrich A. Hayek]

The Road to Serfdom

Originally published in 1944, The Road to Serfdom has profoundly influenced many of the world's great leaders, from Orwell and Churchill in the mid-'40s, to Reagan and Thatcher in the '80s. The book offers persuasive warnings against the dangers of central planning, along with what Orwell described as "an eloquent defense of laissez-faire capitalism".
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Publisher's Summary

Originally published in 1944, The Road to Serfdom has profoundly influenced many of the world's great leaders, from Orwell and Churchill in the mid-'40s, to Reagan and Thatcher in the '80s. The book offers persuasive warnings against the dangers of central planning, along with what Orwell described as "an eloquent defense of laissez-faire capitalism".

Hayek shows that the idea that "under a dictatorial government you can be free inside," is nothing less than a grievous fallacy. Such dictatorial governments prevent individual freedoms, and they often use psychological measures to perform "an alteration of the character of the people". Gradually, the people yield their individuality to the point where they become part of the collectivist mass.

©1944 The University of Chicago (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“This book was like a Mike Tyson (in his prime) right hook to socialism in Western Europe and in the United States. But its influence didn’t stop there. It has inspired political and economic leaders for decades since—most famously Ronald Reagan. Reagan often praised Hayek when he talked about people waking up to the dangers of big government.” (Glenn Beck)

“Shatters the myth that the totalitarianisms 'of the Left' and 'of the Right' stem from differing impulses.” (National Review, 100 Best Non-Fiction Books of the Century)

“This book has become a true classic: essential reading for everyone who is seriously interested in politics in the broadest and least partisan sense.” (Milton Friedman)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Scott Farmington, NY, United States 12-17-10
    Scott Farmington, NY, United States 12-17-10
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    "Classic"

    After listening to the entire book, I wonder why this work would not be mandatory reading in either high school or college. Hayek teaches us so much about why socialism fails. The work is timeless as it is as relevant now as it was when he wrote it in the 1940s. Hayek is very matter of fact and his thoughts are presented much differently than the typical political author today who tends to demonize and minimize their political opponents.

    William Hughes does a great job narrating using emotion where appropriate, at times I feel like I might be listening to Hayek himself.

    This is a must read regardless of your political beliefs.

    21 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Luke Edmonton, Alberta 02-06-13
    Luke Edmonton, Alberta 02-06-13 Member Since 2009
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    "Insightful arguments, condescending performance"

    Hayek is not the most exciting writer, but he is clear, and his discussion does hold your attention. Especially this book which is directed not at academics, but to us regular folk.

    The discussion about the dangers of socialism is somewhat dated: the particular dangers he is concerned about are with regards to post-war England. Still, there are insights here that apply universally.

    My main complaint is the condescending tone of the reader. I do not think the book is written as a talking down lecture. But it comes across this way through the reader.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lauren Vancouver, WA, United States 04-20-11
    Lauren Vancouver, WA, United States 04-20-11 Member Since 2001
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    "Amazing!"

    My son and I have decided that this is now our absolutely favorite book ever - replacing what had held as our previous favorite for almost 20 years. It is just that good. We enjoy about 40 books a year together- mostly nonfiction. We got this book after listening to several other books recently which referenced it and after hearing that it was a pivitol work in forming the thinking of both Reagan and Thatcher. The author can say in one sentence things that took me many minutes to share with my husband. Every sentence is a gem.

    11 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Hutchinson, MN, United States 04-30-12
    David Hutchinson, MN, United States 04-30-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Good Book - Narration a bit monotonous"

    Hayek does a very good job of describing and predicting how America went from an individualistic, capitalist nation to socialism. He describes how the switch is made in the name of fairness and security.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anandasubramanian Amstelveen, Netherlands 07-09-11
    Anandasubramanian Amstelveen, Netherlands 07-09-11

    Harry Turtledove fan

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    "An excellent book spoiled by a bad narrator"

    The book was and is revolutionary.
    The narrator should be someone similar with the urgency in his voice.
    Unfortunately, what i got a wheezing old, unemotional narrator with a voice so low and devoid of inflection, that he might have been a zombie.
    One more example of Audible spoiling a good book by a bad narrator.
    What's a good example of book and narrator complementing each other? Percy Jackson series. The narrator was BRILLIANT.
    So was "All the Devils are here". The narrator understood what he was saying.
    Audible: wake up and review these.

    12 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    robert Rochester, MN, United States 12-19-10
    robert Rochester, MN, United States 12-19-10 Member Since 2007
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    "Vital and Necessary"

    Dr. Hayek offers very lucid and convincing arguments that socialism never worked, and won't work today or in the future. Buy a copy - audio or hardbound - and give it to your local politician, regardless of their specific political leanings.

    12 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 09-30-12
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 09-30-12 Member Since 2005

    Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.

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    "An important but misused book"

    Don’t let the Glenn Beck endorsement fool you; this might not be the book you were expecting. The Road to Serfdom is not a utopian view of capitalism as a solution to every problem, nor is it an anti-government manifesto. Rather, the book articulates a set of cautionary arguments against the temptations of collectivism, which might promise a more just or efficient world, but delegates to a central authority the power to decide exactly what “just” and “efficient” mean. In Hayek’s view, the devil is in the details, and rarely does any distant authority have the information to set an array of prices, wages, production quotas, job assignments, and incentives in a way that’s fair and functional. The more control the central authority assumes over the economy, the less responsive and transparent its micromanagement becomes, leaving many citizens frustrated and lacking motivation (as anyone who’s ever dealt with any kind of massive bureaucracy can imagine). As political unrest grows, the authority will find itself in a position where it either has to relinquish control, or clamp down on freedoms (think of the line from the classic Who song: "...and the party on the left is now the party on the right").

    Generally, I found Hayek’s arguments carefully thought-out and sensible, responding to the views of his opponents without dismissing their concerns, intelligence, or good intentions (a feature of the book that seems to have been lost on people like Glenn Beck). As a moderate liberal, I would agree that fairly structured free markets work well enough for many things, allowing most people to meet their own needs and to pursue at least some of their wants. What works just fine shouldn’t be discarded in a quest to fix what doesn’t.

    But, of course, the magic word is “most”. Hayek does acknowledge that free markets aren’t a panacea, and recognizes the need for social safety nets, public education, a minimum wage, anti-exploitation laws, consumer protection laws, environmental laws, and other features of modern liberal democracies. His concern isn’t so much that the government might set regulations or provide public services, but that it do so without destroying the benefits of a competitive system or giving some interest group special advantages over others. He also argues against state-sponsored business monopolies, an indictment that would presumably include much of today’s shameless lobbying and corporate welfare. That said, I thought he glossed over the possibilities of democratic socialism, wherein citizens form local cooperative arrangements that work with local government.

    All in all, I think the Road to Serfdom remains, after so many decades, a book that continues to be relevant to discussions about economics in that it outlines a sober and sensible set of warnings against the dangers of utopian thinking. However, it also doesn't purport that capitalism is an innately fair or just system (an issue that a lot of modern day Tea Partiers and Randians seem in denial of), but one whose application must evolve with a society's needs. Trouble is, the devil is in the details either way you go, and Hayek leaves the USA of the early 21st century with a lot of questions that still need good answers. For example, what do we do with the many formerly middle class Americans whose jobs have been lost to globalism and advances in technology? Many of these citizens just aren't cut out for joining the intellectual class (doctor, engineer, professor, etc.), but forcing them to compete for wages with foreign workers or machines isn't a very palatable choice. At what point does Joe Average become a piece of expensive, obsolete equipment in the eyes of capitalism? While Hayek's book is still worth reading for its arguments, I fear we may be on our way out of the reality to which his analysis easily applied.

    9 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ralph G. Lindsey 10-12-11 Member Since 2003
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    "Should be required reading!"

    This should be required reading in both high school and in college. It wouldn't hurt the teachers to read this either.

    7 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Utah 06-18-11
    Amazon Customer Utah 06-18-11 Member Since 2009

    tired teacher

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Must Read"

    Everyone should read this book and act on it before we lose the freedom we have left.

    8 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Los Angeles, CA, United States 11-17-11
    Amazon Customer Los Angeles, CA, United States 11-17-11

    eclectic dilettante

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    "eerily relevant for the 21st century"

    Parts of this "mid-century" (1940's) book may send shivers up your spine since they seem like "today's news" (circa 2011). Hayek's writing is incisive and insightful, if at times a bit "dense" due to high expectations of the vocabulary and language skills of his readers. One example is the occasional use of short quotes in French and German with no translations supplied. Bill Hughes is a master narrator, and his skills are tested in this book with its extensive citations and quotes having parenthetical attributions.

    I appreciated this book for a historical context on the pendulum swings between planning and the free market. No matter which side you are rooting for, you will experience both thrills and slumps, because in the intervening 50+ years since this books original publication, some things are recurring and others are not [yet?].

    Another reason to like this book is the logical/philosophical approach. While the title hints at a provocative rhetoric, the text itself is quite level-headed.

    5 of 8 people found this review helpful
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