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Edited by Roger W. Garrison and Norman Barry
Chapter 11: Hayek on socialism
In his Friedrich Hayek: A Biography, Alan Ebenstein (2001) describes the Austrian economist as the greatest ‘anti-socialist’ theorist of the twentieth century. This epitaph would doubtless have pleased a man who dedicated The Road to Serfdom (Hayek, 1944) to ‘the Socialists of all Parties’ and, in his final book, declared an intention to show that ‘socialist aims and programmes are factually impossible to achieve or execute’ (Hayek, 1988, p. 7). That such words should emanate from a man praised throughout his career for modesty when dealing with opponents, was testament to the scale of events then about to unfold in Eastern Europe and Hayek’s sense of personal vindication after decades of scholarly isolation. Notwithstanding the recognition that Hayek has achieved in recent years, the significance of his work to contemporary debates continues to be underappreciated and, worse still, misunderstood. In economic theory a raft of arguments justifying all manner of government interventions continue to be forthcoming under the guise of an equilibrium-centred view that Hayek rejected in the 1940s. In political theory and sociology meanwhile, there continues to be a ceaseless stream of assaults against the supposed ‘atomism’ of individualist philosophy, notwithstanding Hayek’s view that the purpose of ‘true’ individualism was to understand the ‘life of man as a social being’.
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