questions for Chris Sciabarra

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Fri Aug 27 13:20:36 MDT 1999

And what is Hayek and the Austrians' take on the class struggle ? What is the special
quality of the price mechanism ? Why can't it be replaced by computers ?

This is twenty questions.

>>> Chris Matthew Sciabarra <cms10 at> 08/27/99 02:20PM >>>
At 01:58 PM 8/27/99 -0400, you wrote:
>What is the dialectics in the libertarian view you describe ?

There are several theorists throughout the history of classical liberalism
and neo-liberalism, who were not of the "atomist" type, and who understood
the many interconnections between politics, culture, economics, social
psychology, and ideology.  The Scottish Enlightenment thinkers -- many of
whom deeply influenced Marx -- formed a so-called "Scottish Historical
School," with a lot more savvy than the Robinson Crusoe types that invaded
economics later on.  (On this, see Ronald Meek's work, showing Marx's debt
to the Scottish thinkers.)  Herbert Spencer, the father of so-called
"general systems theory" also had some genuine dialectical insights into
the "organic" connection between interventionism at home and militarism
abroad.  Carl Menger, the father of the Austrian school -- and many of the
Austrians in general, like Hayek, Mises, and, to a certain extent, Rothbard
-- have all shown a penchant for understanding the mutual implications of
economics and politics.  Where they differ with Marxism is in their
fundamentally distinct view of the market and the state.

>What is it
>that the libertarian/anarchist viewpoint provides that it lacking in the
>Marxist view , the abolition of the state ? But surely you know that the
>Marxist view is that the state whithers away when all of capitalism has been
>abolished ? Marxism is not repressive, totalitarianism, or statism.
>Charles Brown

I would agree that Marxism, in its theoretical foundations, did not aim for
totalitarianism.  Unfortunately, in my view, it often acted as an ideology
for those who, in the 20th century, achieved the kind of statism that Marx
would have probably been abhorred by.  The libertarian view, I think, has
sharpened the focus on the efficacy of the price mechanism for investment
and production, and I think Hayek, for instance, has had a huge impact on
many left thinkers, from Heilbroner to Hillary Wainwright, in his
understanding of the role of prices in political economy.  All too often,
the attempt to do away with a price mechanism led to all sorts of
calculational chaos behind the "Iron Curtain," and I think the Austrian
theorists well predicted this early in the 20th century.

But the irony here is that both the Austrian economists and the Marxists
have engaged in a frontal assault on mainstream "neoclassical" economics,
with its emphases on statics and equilibrium.  Both have criticized
contemporary political economy as neofascist and militarist, even if their
prescriptions for changing that reality are opposed.

Chris Matthew Sciabarra, Visiting Scholar
NYU Department of Politics
715 Broadway
New York, New York  10003-6806
Dialectics and Liberty Website:
Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand:

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