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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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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 16 September 2021

The Battles of Yesterday

The Battles of Yesterday

(p.156) Conclusion The Battles of Yesterday
Hayek and the Evolution of Capitalism

Naomi Beck

University of Chicago Press

Hayek’s interest in evolutionary theorizing was motivated by a desire to justify a specific worldview rather than explain observable reality, or at the very least test the explanatory power of evolutionary logic when applied to social phenomena. This ideological commitment biased his analysis to the extent that his defense of the free market often appeared to be more a matter of faith than a well-founded position. He never truly engaged with the biological proposals that inspired the evolutionary principles he claimed to follow. Perhaps lack of time and energy prevented him from fully developing his claims. But even the few historical propositions he did make were far from convincing, lacked support, and could easily be challenged by counterevidence. In the final analysis, his interpretation of evolution betrays a very narrow understanding of the theory he purported to use, and of the differences between biological and cultural evolution. Hayek disregarded the open-ended nature of evolution, and refused to admit that social structures other than the free market could also be described as spontaneous growths, or that human agency could play a substantial role in social development.

Keywords:   F. A. Hayek, cultural evolution, biological evolution, social phenomena, free market, human agency, ideology, spontaneous growth, social structure

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