Edited by Roger W. Garrison and Norman Barry
Chapter 16: What remains of Hayek’s critique of ‘social justice’? Twenty propositions
It is impossible to formulate a final judgment about the success or failure of an idea or a critical position in the more or less open market of political concepts. In addition to his economic writings, Friedrich Hayek’s oeuvre includes numerous publications dealing with the history of ideas and with social philosophy. One of the outstanding social philosophers of the twentieth century, his main significance today is his skeptical approach to social engineering, to collectivism and to what he called constructivism. His writings on political philosophy are conceived largely as criticisms of existing conditions and developments, always based on long-term perspectives (both retrospective and prospective), and are aimed directly at observed shortcomings. His intent was by no means merely to analyze those shortcomings; rather, his academic and personal passion was to improve political, economic and social conditions by learning from mistakes and missteps. He was especially interested in institutions of long standing, and his skepticism was directed at trends which, in his view, would not be of great duration because they lacked what today might be termed ‘sustainability’. Hayek is a versatile and well-read analyst of government, economics and society, and a penetrating observer of real, existing political structures. But anyone trying to derive from his writings a partisan program directly applicable to everyday politics is certain to be disappointed. When he makes proposals, he speaks at the constitutional level, and even there he operates in the realm of broad principle.
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