Hayek VS. Hobbes

Sat Nov 5 09:10:59 MST 1994

     I have observed the debate over market socialism with
much interest, and while I am no advocate of the approach
(for many of the same reasons that I have already discussed),
I just HAD to respond to one comment made by Tom.  Yes, yes,
I know... `here I go again.'

     Tom writes:  "Hayek and Mises posit a Hobbesian human
nature, which I consider to be a species of reification, and
which therefore I do not agree. . . . But one thing I would
argue is that human consciousness and behavior is a product
of social relations.  So if it's human selfishness and
corruption that Hayek and Mises are so concerned with (which
they argue inevitably gives rise to bureaucracies under
planning), I can think of no more fertile ground for it than
market economic relations, whether the present capitalist
class has been abolished or so."

     Leaving aside the question of the relationship between
bureaucracy and market economies (which Mises addresses in
his classic work, BUREAUCRACY), or between "selfishness" and
"corruption," I would have to say that Hayek and Mises most
DEFINITELY do not "posit a Hobbesian human nature."  Of
course, I agree with Tom in one sense...  if Hayek and Mises
DID posit a Hobbesian human nature, it WOULD "be a species of
reification . . ."

     Let's take Hayek who AGRRES with Tom, that human
consciousness and behavior is indeed, a product of social
relations.  Hayek fully understands the intricate reciprocity
and organic conjunction between "individual" and "social"
factors.  Indeed, for Hayek, the individual cannot be
abstracted from the social, for each individual is part of a
cluster of social relations.  He argues that "the individual
with a particular structure and behavior owes its existence
. . . to a society of a particular structure because only
within such a society has it been advantageous to develop
some of its peculiar characteristics, while the order of
society in turn is a result of . . . regularities of conduct
which the individuals have developed in society."

     Moreover, Hayek believes that the human mind and culture
have developed concurrently, for "it is probably no more
justified to claim that thinking man created his culture than
that culture created his reason."  In almost Marxian fashion,
Hayek argues that social theory must start "from men whose
whole nature and character is determined by their existence
in society."

     It is BECAUSE human beings are social, it is BECAUSE the
social is an intricate complexity, that complex,
sophisticated, social relations create effects which are
greater than any individual mind "can ever fully comprehend."
This is why Hayek rejects central planners' attempts to
control and direct social development, for these planners are
INTERNAL to that development and cannot take on an external,
synoptic vantage point.  Thus, though his conclusions are
diametrically opposed to Marx, Hayek shares with Marx a
dialectical view of the whole as based on organic and
internal relations.  Neither Hayek, nor his mentor, Ludwig
von Mises, were advocates of a Hobbesian conception; Hayek in
particular, is much closer to the Hegelian tradition than
either his followers or critics would admit.

                              - Chris

Dr. Chris M. Sciabarra
Visiting Scholar, N.Y.U. Department of Politics
INTERNET:  sciabrrc at acfcluster.nyu.edu
  BITNET:  sciabrrc at nyuacf


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