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The Essence of Hayek

The Essence of Hayek

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October 18, 2010

July/August 2001 -- BOOK REVIEW:   The Essence of Hayek . Edited by Chiaki Nishiyama and Kurt R. Leube. (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, 1984. 405 pp. $34.95; $22.95, paper.)

Part of the Hoover Institution's "essence" series on great twentieth-century economists, The Essence of Hayek is designed for the student of economics or admirer of Hayekian thought. Though this volume in no way serves as a substitute for reading Hayek's major works, it is certainly, as the introduction states, "a stepping-stone to further study of Hayek." Compiled in 1984 to commemorate Friedrich A. von Hayek's eighty-fifth birthday, The Essence of Hayek is a selection of twenty-one essays that are representative of his economics and system of social order. With the exception of chapter 17, "The Origins and Effects of Our Morals: A Problem for Science" (which was adapted from a 1983 speech), all of the material included here was taken from previously published books or articles.

But the volume does contain original material from the book's editors-a biographical essay by Hayek's research assistant, Kurt Leube, and an introduction by Chiaki Nishiyama, both of whom were students of Hayek.

Leube's biographical introduction chronologically details Hayek's intellectual and personal development, highlighting major publications, such as Law, Legislation, and Liberty and The Road to Serfdom, and significant personal events and achievements. Leube also attempts to show Hayek's place in the Austrian school of economics and the intellectual community of his day. His exposition of this, however, is lacking: one must have a prior understanding of the major intellectuals in the Austrian school in order to fully comprehend Leube's essay.

Nishiyama, a professor emeritus of economics at Rikkyo University (Tokyo) and a past president of the Mont Pelerin Society, presents an excellent introduction to the volume and helps set a general framework for Hayek's ideas. For example, he discusses Hayek's methodology, many of the terms that Hayek uses, and the basics of Hayek's philosophy. Nishiyama also takes great care to address many common objections to Hayek's work and often contrasts his system to that of John Maynard Keynes.

Owing to the large volume of Hayek's work, much had to be left out of this volume. Most regrettable, according to the editors, was the omission of a selection from Pure Theory of Capital. However, the editors did take great care to include a list of Hayek's work for those interested in further studies. Additionally, material from Hayek's last book, The Fatal Conceit, was not included since it was published after this compilation. What was selected, though, does seem to encapsulate much of Hayek's thought-selections range from essays on economics to his refutation of socialism to his contribution to the history of ideas.

This article was originally published in the July/August 2001 issue of Navigator magazine, The Atlas Society precursor to The New Individualist.  

Donald Cooper
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Donald Cooper
Economics / Business / Finance