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Marx, Hayek,and Utopia


Matz writes:  "Sciabarra's project in Marx, Hayek, and Utopia is provocative. He attempts to show that, despite their opposed political and economic views, Marx and Hayek actually share similar dialectical methods which in turn expose the inherent difficulties of utopian thinking, or of what Hayek alternatively terms 'modern constructivist rationalism.' This constructivism is characterized as the effect of an ahistorical rationality which attempts to transform society entirely according to its putatively completed, synoptic understanding of justice. Sciabarra argues that, since both Marx and Hayek defend the historical, conditioned, contextual character of human reason, that is, its 'concrete specificity of context,' any attempt to reconstruct society completely belies the contextual, dialectical nature of human consciousness and identity. Sciabarra's thesis that Hayek employs a dialectics similar to Marx is unexpected. He contends that Hayek's method is not in fact individualistic but incorporates an organic social evolutionism . . .

"Two epistemological arguments form the basis of this '[dialectical] sensibility' . . . the theory of 'internalism' [and] the inevitability of unintended social consequences. . . . I believe that his reconstruction of Hayek's 'implicit' epistemological arguments would have profited much more from Peter Winch's or Charles Taylor's account of 'internalism.' . . . There is not much new in Sciabarra's exposition [of Marx's dialectical method], although his account is clear and lively. . . .

"In his final chapter Sciabarra briefly but instructively explains how Jurgen Habermas and Hilary Wainwright have developed radical social theory. . . . while Sciabarra makes some worthwhile comparisons between Marx and Hayek, I believe that his basic thesis regarding the similarity of their methods is ultimately problematic. First, the point of similarity is in the end so general that not much more can be said than to remind the reader . . . that consciousness can only be understood within a specific cultural context . . . Part of the problem here is that he does not articulate a plausible alternative, either historical or contemporary, to the dialectical approach. This would clarify what is really important about dialectics and would motivate the overall interest of his project. For who, after all, could reasonably deny the importance of the interplay between individuals and their conditions of communal life in understanding human existence. . . . Sciabarra [also] does not explain . . . how . . . Hayek's method is dialectical in a Marxist way. . . . Lastly, there is the question of teleology. . . . Is there any teleology in Hayek's view? . . . There is more dialectical 'sensibility' than dialectical method to Hayek's approach."

Lou Matz,  Xavier University

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