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Hayek and the Evolution of Capitalism$
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Naomi Beck

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226556000

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226556147.001.0001

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From Complexity to Order

From Complexity to Order

(p.46) Chapter Two From Complexity to Order
Hayek and the Evolution of Capitalism

Naomi Beck

University of Chicago Press

The second chapter begins with an examination of Hayek’s foray into psychology, and his explanation for how the mind functions and learns in The Sensory Order (1952). Via this inquiry into the nature and development of cognition, Hayek broached the core elements of a new methodological approach to the study of social phenomena. Contra Karl Popper, he argued that the production of knowledge in the social sciences is fundamentally different from the production of knowledge in the physical sciences. The social sciences deal with complex phenomena and cannot yield specific predictions, as does physics, but only “pattern predictions” and “explanations in principle.” Hayek’s prime example for the latter was Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Using various biological analogies, he sought to demonstrate the limited scope of economic predictions and, consequently, the futility of macroeconomic planning. His analogies intended to harness Darwin’s authority to his cause. But Hayek seemed to arbitrarily opt for an interpretation of evolution that suited his purposes, while ignoring or downplaying key aspects of Darwin’s thought. The chapter ends with an analysis of Hayek’s portrayal of humans as rule-following animals, and his depiction of social learning as predominantly a nonrational process based on imitation.

Keywords:   F. A. Hayek, Karl Popper, Charles Darwin, psychology, sensory order, complex phenomena, evolution, natural selection, imitation, pattern prediction

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