What to Read? Re Hayek debate

Carrol Cox cbcox at rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
Fri Jul 14 15:12:33 MDT 1995


Rob Frantz July 14 challenge on Hayek raises again the question that first
several weeks ago provoked me to intervene in this list. He claims that we
cannot reject Hayek without first reading him. If one took this seriously the
whole human race would die out in moments from inaction. It is a simple matter
of the amount of time in any one human life. There are millions of texts to
read and one is probably only going to read a few thousand of them, so there
needs to be some criteria for exclusion, for identifying those books or those
trains of thought which one will *not* explore.
    For example, one exclusion I make is Freud and the Freudians. (I did in
fact read several volumes of Freud around 45 years ago, but that hardly
counts.) I know from hearsay that Freudians posit something called "*the*
unconscious." That sounds way too much like "immortal soul" or The Trinity. So
I can, at least provisionally, eliminate Freud from my reading list. Similarly,
I can eliminate libertarianism, market socialism, Italian Fascism, Christian
Democracy, works of theology (except some of these I must read for professional
reasons, being a student of Milton criticism). The list goes on and on. So does
it for everyone. Frantz must have a very long list of writers who he knows are
not worth reading. He's probably wrong on a number of those, as I am in
reference to my list, but right or wrong sanity requires that we make such
lists. On
    Certain books may even be worth buying but possibly not worth reading: for
example, last October I purchased Ronald Takaki, *A Different Mirror: A History
of Multicultural Aamerica* but have not read it yet. I judged that it was a
book that if I did decide I needed to read it (which is by no means certain) I
would want to read quickly, so I have it on my shelves. I may read some
reference to it some day that convinces me either to put it on my reading list
or put it completely off. There is no reason I should feel bad about this or
feel that I can't judge multiculturalism without reading Takaki.
        Carrol Cox
        Illinois State University


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