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Marx, Hayek,and Utopia



This is not a definitive response to the reviews of John Davenport, David Gordon, Tibor R. Machan, and Michael Principe. That response is being developed as part of the trilogy that will culminate in my forthcoming volume, TOTAL FREEDOM.  However, I wish to thank these authors for their incisive comments on MARX, HAYEK, AND UTOPIA, especially insofar as they focus on issues that are unresolved in that book.

I disagree with Davenport's view that Hayek's approach is "functionalist" rather than "dialectical." But the central issue here revolves around the meaning of "dialectical" -- I suspect that those coming from the left academy would argue that an essential component of "dialectical" critique is "transformation," and to the extent that Hayek's view is non-transformative, they reason, it is simply undialectical.

The problem is that most visions of "transformation" on the left involve a wholly  undialectical application of dialectics to history -- the attempt to view social change from an Archimedean vantage point outside the context of history and society. What Hayek tells us is that there is no such vantage point, that we are as much the creatures of context as we are its creators, and that the critique of context must always be immanent to the conditions that exist.   And to the extent that Wainwright and Habermas endorse this same a-contextuality, what I call a "strict organicist methodological research orientation" (MRO), they succumb to epistemic fallacies endemic to the entire Marxist tradition.  They attempt to override the unintended consequences of social action as if they have privileged access to synoptic knowledge.

David Gordon is correct to note that in my book, I do not fully assess the "cogency of the Marxist answer," though I certainly show my Hayekian colors. He is also correct to suggest that one of the reasons I have not dismissed Marx's work as "arrant nonsense" is that I recognize the value of internal relations as an analytical tool. But my own view seeks to transcend the dualistic opposition of internalism and externalism, in a way that emphasizes contextuality as the essential, distinguishing characteristic of a dialectical MRO. An emphasis on context in internal relations helps to sever that doctrine from any connection to metaphysical and cosmological applications.

However, it should also be noted, that despite the even-handed exposition in MARX, HAYEK, AND UTOPIA, it seems fairly apparent to me -- and others (including Michael Principe) -- that I fundamentally endorse many, if not most, of the Hayekian themes that I explicate, especially those that impinge on the utopian pretense of knowledge, the contextuality of social action, the fallacy of constructivism, and the failure of central planning. I believe that Hayek is far more dialectical on these issues than his socialist adversaries. In this regard, I believe that Principe, for instance, has failed to recognize the constructivist-rationalist underpinnings of the Marxian resolution. It is not that I rely on an "overly utopian" conception of Marx's vision of communism; it is that Marx's conception is utopian, and to the extent that socialist societies are unable to achieve his vision, they are forever doomed to dystopian, unintended consequences.

As for my ascription to Hayek of the doctrine of internal relations -- Gordon is to be commended for having recognized the importance of this discussion. He has offered a trenchant critique of internal relations and dialectical "logic" in the past -- particularly in two articles, both engaging the philosopher Errol E. Harris. [See Gordon's "Review of Harris's Formal, Transcendental, and Dialectical ThinkingInternational Philosophical Quarterly 30 (December 1990), 503-7; and "Reply to Harris: On Formal and Dialectical Logic," International Philosophical Quarterly 32 (June 1992), 247-51.] But discussions of these issues go beyond our limited scope here; I am addressing these issues in my next book, TOTAL FREEDOM. In that book, I seek to reclaim dialectics in a realist-Aristotelian vein, disconnected from its idealist and materialist cosmological affiliations.

Let me simply say that Gordon's critique of internal relations is correct insofar as it views internalism in "strict organicist" terms, rather than in contextualized dialectical terms. I believe that thinkers such as Hayek and Rand have contributed grandly to these contextualized alternatives.

As to why we should celebrate Rand, Hayek, or even Marx, on the basis of their "organic, dialectical" thinking -- I can only say, we need to separate the dialectical wheat from the utopian chaff in the works of each of these thinkers, because it is this dialectical sensibility that is essential to a genuinely radical approach to philosophic and social theory.  Tibor R. Machan recognizes correctly that I need to "produce a work in which the ideas that play such a significant role in [my] two books . . . gain full exploration in their own right."  Such is the nature of my forthcoming TOTAL FREEDOM.  I do address some of his concerns, however, with particular emphasis on what he calls "the blow-up fallacy" in my article, "Are We All Dialecticians Now?" which appeared in Critical Review.  More to follow . . .

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