May, 2019

How Misesian Was the Hayekian Research Program?

  • Peter J. Boettke

    Director, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
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Hayek often said that his 1937 paper – “Economics and Knowledge” -- was a subtle rebuke of Mises’s apriorism. Not, as many might want to believe, in some root and branch fashion, but in the realm of applied theory of which the study of the market economy is to be included. The realm of pure theory – or what Hayek calls the “Pure Logic of Choice” or in other places he calls “The Economic Calculus” – the essential building block of economic analysis reflects the Misesian (or actually Mengerian) position, and more or less the epistemological status of the pure theory aspect of praxeology is upheld by Hayek. As he put it in a much later essay, there is a “Primacy of the Abstract.” And, one must always remember that Mises’s claim is not that he was unique in this endeavor either. As he put it: “In asserting the a priori character of praxeology we are not drafting a plan for a future new science different from the traditional sciences of human action. We do not maintain that the theoretical science of human action should be aprioristic, but that this it is, and always has been so.” (1949, 40)