Liberty and Equality in Political Economy
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Liberty and Equality in Political Economy

From Locke versus Rousseau to the Present

Nicholas Capaldi and Gordon Lloyd

Liberty and Equality in Political Economy is an evolutionary account of the ongoing debate between two narratives: Locke and liberty versus Rousseau and equality. Within this book, Nicholas Capaldi and Gordon Lloyd view these authors and their texts as parts of a conversation, therefore highlighting a new perspective on the texts themselves.
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Chapter 12: Hayek and Oakeshott: Making a New Case for Liberty

Nicholas Capaldi and Gordon Lloyd


Readers might be surprised by the continued connection we draw among philosophy, politics, and economics. There are several reasons for revisiting Hayek even as we focus on Oakeshott in this chapter. Differences aside, both were deeply concerned with philosophical foundations and for a while were colleagues at the London School of Economics. It is the shared Wittgensteinian philosophical perspective that explains (1) their marginalization by the philosophic community, (2) their vehement rejection of the Rousseau Equality Narrative and (3) their trenchant critique of economic planning or government regulation. In addition, (4) they focused on an aspect of the two narratives that had been largely neglected until the late nineteenth century, namely, the ‘rule of law’. They argued, in effect, that the Liberty Narrative needed a new philosophical foundation. The academically dominant philosophical movements in the twentieth century were based on scientism, that is, the view that science is the whole truth about everything, and the job of philosophy is to spell out the implications of that view. One of the implications of that view is that there is or should be social science – the explanation, prediction, and control of social phenomena. This is the agenda of the Enlightenment Project, specifically to formulate and implement a social technology. The articulation, defense, advocacy or implementation of this social technology is what later adherents of the Equality Narrative have urged: for example, the Marx–Engels version of scientific socialism, the Progressives’ notion of the administration of things, Keynesian macroeconomics, and so on.

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