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Subjectivism and the limits of F. A. Hayek's political economy

Theodore A Burczak, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation has two purposes. First, it demonstrates that Friedrich A. Hayek's subjectivism opens doors to a postmodern economics. The second chapter examines the implications of Hayek's emphasis on the unattainability of objective knowledge and the limits of reason. As a result of this subjectivist stance, Hayek stance out a position against the dominant rational-choice model in economics, a position which borders on an antiessentialist or postmodern theory of human action. In addition, the third chapter argues that Hayek's subjectivism is the cornerstone of his theory of the market as a "discovery" process, a theory at odds with the neoclassical conception of the market. The chapter examines the non-reductionist and non-teleological aspects of Hayek's theory of the market, and it illustrates how Oscar Lange and Fred Taylor's well-known proposal for market socialism ignores the subjectivist elements of Hayek's thought. The second purpose of the dissertation is to show that at critical junctures in his political economy, Hayek abandons his subjectivism. The dissertation demonstrates that fundamental contradictions lie at the heart of Hayek's defense of economic freedom. The fourth chapter uses the subjectivist insights of John Maynard Keynes and Post Keynesian macroeconomic theory, particularly the emphasis on uncertainty and subjective expectations, to demonstrate that Hayek attenuates his subjectivism in his monetary and capital theories in order to maintain his defense of the market as a self-regulating, spontaneous order. The fifth chapter continues the critique of Hayek's political economy by posing the subjectivist legal theory of the legal realists against Hayek's jurisprudance to challenge his support of the rule of law as a neutral guide to economic policy. The final chapter develops a radical subjectivist, or postmodernist, defense of activist public policy against both Hayek's criticisms and the charge of nihilism. It presents a subjectivist theory of pattern prediction to defend macropolicy, the attempt to achieve social justice, and the implementation of democratic firms.

Subject Area

Economics|Economic theory

Recommended Citation

Burczak, Theodore A, "Subjectivism and the limits of F. A. Hayek's political economy" (1994). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9420604.