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Chris Matthew Sciabarra, Ph.D.

Doctoral Dissertation

Toward a Radical Critique of Utopianism: Dialectics and Dualism in the Works of Friedrich Hayek, Murray Rothbard and Karl Marx


This is an abstract of Chris Matthew Sciabarra's Doctoral Dissertation.  Sciabarra defended his doctoral thesis with distinction in 1988 at the New York University Department of Politics.  His thesis advisor was Bertell Ollman. 

The dissertation provided a major impetus for Sciabarra's trilogy, leading directly to the publication of Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, Ayn Rand:  The Russian Radical, and Total Freedom.  Significant aspects of each of Sciabarra's books -- especially his first and last books -- derive from his dissertation. 

The thesis develops a radical critique of utopian thinking by examining the dialectical and dualistic methodological elements in Hayekian, Rothbardian, and Marxian theory.  Utopianism is defined as an abstract, dualistic, ahistorical form of social thought. Its central failure is its inability to resolve the polarity between its progressive intentions and the emergent, unintended consequences of human interaction.  It grants to men an illusory degree of cognitive efficacy in its construction of a new society. Radicalism, however, recognizes socio-historical conditions in any attempt to dialectically transform them. The Hayekian, Rothbardian and Marxian projects are appraised in their capacity to transcend the methodological pitfalls of utopianism.

The comparison between Hayek, Rothbard and Marx is unusual precisely because each is a major figure in a distinctly different tradition of social analysis.   Hayek exemplifies the "evolutionist" perspective which synthesizes insights from Burke, Popper, Polanyi and Scottish liberalism.  Despite its inadequate analysis of the state and classes, and its dualistic distinction between "spontaneous" and "designed" order, Hayek's framework constitutes a highly dialectical critique of utopianism which has provocative parallels with the Marxian critique.

Though Hayek and Rothbard share a belief in free market processes, Rothbard embraces a libertarian perspective which synthesizes the insights of Austrian economics, New Left historical revisionism, and the natural rights philosophies of John Locke and Ayn Rand.  Rothbard shares many of the progressive goals of Marx, but his anarchist utopia is an outgrowth of an ahistorical, abstract, dualistic methodology.   Rothbard's analysis is far more radical when it uncovers important dialectical relationships between the "coercive" state and the "voluntarist" market.

Marx's dialectic offers a profoundly radical mode of inquiry.   In contrast to both Hayek and Rothbard, Marx views the duality between state and market as historically specific to capitalism. Taking full cognizance of the evolutionist perspective, Marx proposes the immanent emergence of a communism that consists in the triumph of conscious human agency. Yet, Marx's project grants to man a cognitive efficacy which may be beyond his capacity. The thesis attempts to transcend the utopian limitations of Hayekian, Rothbardian, and Marxian theories through the development of a truly radical (i.e., non-utopian) methodology.

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