Hayek's Tensions

Reexamining the Political Economy and Philosophy of F.A. Hayek

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Published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in the Tensions in Political Economy series.

F. A. Hayek, a prominent 20th-century political economist in the Austrian tradition, won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1974 for his pioneering work on the theory of money and economic fluctuations and on comparative institutional analysis. Hayek’s research highlights the importance and dispersed nature of knowledge, advancing an interdisciplinary approach to understanding human behavior. Like any great and productive scholar, he left behind a body of work that includes tensions, flaws, and inconsistencies that must be confronted by scholars looking to engage, critique, and advance his distinctive project in political economy.

Hayek’s work is important but also open for contestation and improvement. Hayek’s Tensions: Reexamining the Political Economy and Philosophy of F. A. Hayek presents a critical assessment of Hayek’s research and ideas and identifies sources of tension within his writing. The contributions to this edited volume include original chapters by eminent scholars of complexity theory, of Austrian economics, and of Hayek himself. The book’s key takeaway is that the research program Hayek developed continues as an open-ended project, both as a social-scientific approach and as a classical liberal vision of a free society, rather than as a static dogma or set of theories from a bygone era. Taken as a whole, this volume identifies important questions and areas for future research by the next generation of political economists.

“F. A. Hayek’s contributions extended across many decades and many fields, and inevitably contained many tensions. In this compelling collection, some of the tensions are argued to be illusory; others to be real, but resolvable; and others to be real and unresolved, serving as invitations to further work. The chapter authors know their subjects well, and make substantive contributions. This is a fine contribution to Hayekian and, indeed, social science scholarship.”
Bruce Caldwell

“Hayek, one of the most influential 20th-century economists, continues to grow in reputation and influence. His work, however, is in many respects enigmatic, and hence the importance of this book in examining Hayek’s contributions. What will persist and grow ever more significant, I believe, is Hayek’s discovery and articulation of the pricing system as an information and coordination system, thereby returning economics to Adam Smith’s principal theme.”
Vernon Smith

“This collection of engaging essays is testimony to the richness and vitality of Hayek’s thought. It is also full of ideas for future work inspired by Hayek’s insights.”
Chandran Kukathas



Stefanie Haeffele, Solomon M. Stein, and Virgil Henry Storr

Chapter 1: Hayek and the Hayekians on the Political Order of a Free People
Peter J. Boettke & M. Scott King

Chapter 2: Hayek’s Plan-based Political Economy Project
Peter Lewin

Chapter 3: Hayek’s Evolving Views on the Gold Standard
Lawrence H. White

Chapter 4: Tensions and Ambiguities in Hayek’s Social Theory: Ontology, Methodology, Substantive Claims, and Self-description
Paul Lewis

Chapter 5: Why Are There No Hayekian Critics of Consumerism? Going beyond Hayek’s “Non Sequitur of the ‘Dependence Effect’” in Light of Lachmann, Douglas, Fromm, and Maslow
David L. Prychitko

Chapter 6: Updating Hayek on Cultural Multilevel Selection
David Sloan Wilson

Chapter 7: The Courage to be Utopian: Developing a Progressive Hayekian Economic Policy Agenda
David Colander