June, 2016

Left Luggage: Finding The Relevant Context of Austrian Economics

  • Erwin Dekker

    Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
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Find the paper at SpringerLink. 

Recently a number of scholars, including Tony Judt and Corey Robin, have attempted to discredit Austrian economics by emphasizing the (cultural) distance between the context in which the Austrians made their contributions and our current society. This article argues that the cultural and social context is indeed relevant for how we understand the contribution of the Austrians, but that the critics fundamentally misunderstand or misrepresent the Austrian and Habsburg context. It is argued that the relevant context, particularly for the interwar contributions of Mises, Schumpeter, Hayek and Popper is the despair about the breakdown of their civilization, which includes the rise of mass political movements such as socialism and fascism. It is only against this background that we can understand the intent of their work, and the problems which they sought to address. It is further argued, in contrast with earlier work which has tended to emphasize the philosophical and methodological context in which they operated, that this cultural and social context is at least as relevant to understand the meaning of their work.