Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics

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Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics is a book written by Friedrich Hayek published in 1967.  It is a collection of twenty-five essays and lectures, most of which were previously published between the 1949 and 1967.  The scope of topics epistemology, history of ideas, specialisation, Hume, spontaneous order, the liberal social order, the transmission of liberal economic ideas, and a variety of other topics on philosophy, politics, and economics.  The volume was followed up eleven years later with New Studies in Philosophy, Politics, Economics and the History of Ideas.


The Dilemma of Specialization (ch. 8)[edit]

  • It may well be that the chemist or physiologist is right when he decides that he will become a better chemist or physiologist if he concentrates on his subject at the expense of his general education. But in the study of society exclusive concentration on a speciality has a peculiarly baneful effect: it will not merely prevent us from being attractive company or good citizens but may impair our competence in our proper field—or at least for some of the most important tasks we have to perform. The physicist who is only a physicist can still be a first class physicist and a most valuable member of society. But nobody can be a great economist who is only an economist—and I am even tempted to add that the economist who is only an economist is likely to become a nuisance if not a positive danger.

The Principles of a Liberal Social Order (ch. 11)[edit]

F. A. Hayek, "The Principles of a Liberal Social Order," ch. 11 of Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (1967).  A paper submitted to the Tokyo Meeting of the Mont Pélèrin Society (September 1966) and originally published in Il Politico (December 1966).

  • Liberalism thus derives from the discovery of self-generating or spontaneous order in the social affairs (the same discovery which led to the recognition that there existed an object for theoretical social sciences), an order which made it possible to utilize the knowledge and skill of all members of society to a much greater extent than would be possible in any order created by central direction, and the consequent desire to make as full use of these powerful spontaneous ordering forces as possible.
    • Page 162.
  • Thus the order of the market, in particular, rests not on common purposes but on reciprocity, that is on the reconciliation of different purposes for the mutual benefit of the participants.
    • Page 163.
  • In conclusion, the basic principles of a liberal society may be summed up by saying that in such a society all coercive functions of government must be guided by the overruling importance of what I like to call the three great negatives: peace, justice and liberty.  Their achievement requires that in its coercive functions government shall be confined to the enforcement of such prohibitions (stated as abstract rules) as can be equally applied to all, and to exacting under the same uniform rules from all a share of the costs of the other, non-coercive services it may decide to render to the citizens with the material and personal means thereby placed at its disposal.
    • Page 177.

The Intellectuals and Socialism (ch. 12)[edit]

F. A. Hayek, "The Intellectuals and Socialism," ch. 12 of Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (1967), reprinted from The University of Chicago Law Review 16, no. 3 (Spring 1949).

  • Socialism has never and nowhere been at first a working-class movement.  It is by no means an obvious remedy for an obvious evil which the interests of that class will necessarily demand.  It is a construction of theorists, deriving from certain tendencies of abstract thought with which for a long time only the intellectuals were familiar; and it required long efforts by the intellectuals before the working classes could be persuaded to adopt it as their programme.
    • Page 178.
  • Paradoxically enough, one of the main handicaps which deprives the liberal thinker of popular influence is closely connected with the fact that until socialism has actually arrived he had more opportunity of directly influencing decisions on current policy and that in consequence he was not only not tempted into that long-run speculation which is the strength of the socialists, but was actually discouraged from it, because any effort of this kind is likely to reduce the immediate good he can do.
    • Pages 190–191.
  • We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage.  What we lack is a liberal Utopia, a programme which seems neither a mere defence of things as they are nor a diluted kind of socialism, but a truly liberal radicalism which does not spare the susceptibilities of the mighty (including the trade unions), which is not too severely practical and which does not confine itself to what appears today as politically possible.  …

    The main lesson which the true liberal must learn from the success of the socialists is that it was their courage to be Utopian which gained them the support of the intellectuals and therefore an influence on public opinion which is daily making possible what only recently seemed utterly remote.  Those who have concerned themselves exclusively with what seemed practicable in the existing state of opinion have constantly found that even this has rapidly become politically impossible as the result of changes in a public opinion which they have done nothing to guide.  Unless we can make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds, the prospects of freedom are indeed dark.  But if we can regain that belief in power of ideas which was the mark of liberalism at its best, the battle is not lost.

    • Page 194.

What is 'Social'?—What Does it Mean (ch. 17)[edit]

F. A. Hayek, "What is 'Social'?—What Does it Mean," ch. 17 of Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (1967), first published in German in Masse und Demokratie, ed. A. Hunold (Zürich, 1957) and then in an unauthorised translation in Freedom and Serfdom, ed. A. Hunold (Dordrecht, 1961).  The present reprint is a revised version of that translation which in parts gravely misrepresented the meaning of the original.

  • If the human intellect is allowed to impose a preconceived pattern on society, if our powers of reasoning are allowed to lay claim to a monopoly of creative effort (and hence to recognition only of premeditated results), then we must not be surprised if society, as such, ceases to function as a creative force.
    • Pages 246–247.

Quotes about Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics[edit]

  • At the same time, as Hayek maintained elsewhere, the facts of the social sciences do not lend themselves to the same degree of prediction, or explanation, as the facts of the natural sciences—it is for this reason that there are degrees of prediction or explanation. Prediction may be expressed numerically, moreover, “not as a unique value or magnitude but as a range,” narrow in the natural sciences and potentially very broad in the social sciences. In the social sciences, Hayek modified the conception of a numerical range to a “range of phenomena to expect.” This was his concept of pattern prediction, or explanation of the principle, broad, general predictions.
    • Alan Ebenstein, Hayek's Journey: The Mind of Friedrich Hayek (2003), Ch. 14 : Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics
  • Hayek’s work in philosophy can be considered from another perspective than its methodology. When Hayek wrote that his philosophical studies should precede his political studies, he meant that in order to explain the sort of political system he favored, it was necessary to have greater understanding of the transmission and communication of information and knowledge. This is why he wished to travel to Italy and Greece. He thought that he might understand nonverbal knowledge better in doing so and might better understand the role of institutions in transmitting knowledge and information.
    • Alan Ebenstein, Hayek's Journey: The Mind of Friedrich Hayek (2003), Ch. 14 : Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics
Friedrich Hayek
Concepts and career business cycle theory · dispersed knowledge · extended order · spontaneous order
Books Prices and Production (1931) · The Road to Serfdom (1944) · Individualism and Economic Order (1948) · The Counter-Revolution of Science (1952) · The Sensory Order (1952) · The Constitution of Liberty (1960) · Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (1967) · Law, Legislation and Liberty (1973) · The Denationalization of Money (1975) · New Studies in Philosophy, Politics, Economics and the History of Ideas (1978) · The Fatal Conceit (1988)
Notable essays "The Use of Knowledge in Society" (1945) · "Why I Am Not a Conservative" (1960) · "The Pretence of Knowledge" (1974)
Commentators Alan O. Ebenstein · Bruce Caldwell
Other topics evolution · dictatorship · John Maynard Keynes