From: "Daniel F. Vukovich" <vukovich@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 28 Jul 1998 22:59:13 -0500
At 09:15 PM 7/28/98 -0400, you wrote:
>Daniel Vukovich wrote:
>>I would be especially appreciative if you'd elaborate just a bit >on what
exactly makes Hayek's notion politically ergegious and absurd? And
>I'd like to respectfully suggest that if you think that distributing price
information is the only way that market systems promote freedom, then you'd
better read some more Hayek (esp. The Fatal Conceit and The Sensory Order).
I suppose the egregiousness of Hayek's politics is one of those things that
is either obvious to someone, or isn't. Suffice it to mention that
Hayek, over and over again in his career as a Cold War Warrior, most
emphatically claims that any belief in *social* justice is absurd and,
moreover, dangerous (cf the Law... volumes, as Im sure you know, "dls").
So too is any type of collective- thinking or desire nothing but a "herd
mentality." In other words, I think Hayek's "fatal conceit" concept (the
error here is called "constructivism", i.e., social engineering and the
belief that we can somehow put abstractions, plans, holism into practice).
One doesnt have to be a Maoist to see the class-position of this mode of
thought. Or its anti-democratic ethos and politics.
I do not, myself, believe that market systems promote something called
"freedom"-- as if "freedom" were some Real thing, that is, a concept which
is ultimately identical to its object (to call Hayek pre-Saussarian is not
I think an exaggeration). (Please do advise me otherwise, but my (cursory)
sense of Hayek's phenomenological/psychological writings is that they are
not simply underdetermined philosophically, but rationalist through and
through.) Hayek's point, of course, is that this bourgeois ideal was a
real product of bourgeois societies, but is now under threat from the
expansion of both socialist systems, and the Keynesian welfare state.
>From a very basic marxist or "materialist" perspective -- and obviously
Foucault shares at least this much with the Old Moor -- such ideals or
concepts as "freedom" or individual (and collective) justice or liberty,
can only be products of specific moments of history, and specific social
relations (or specific stratifications of power/knowledge, in more F.
parlance). In sum, to say that the workers of the world have nothing to
lose but the chains that bind them, does not mean they will then enter
*the* realm of Freedom; it means that they "have no ideals to realize."
This is also why that famous passage in Capital III on the dialectic
between the realms of Freedom and Necessity concludes with the shortening
of the working day being the first, necessary step on any road to the
latter realm. In short, I do not think this perspective -- call it
"materialism," "specificity," "sociological," etc. -- is shared by Hayek. I
suspect this is one reason why I polemically called him "absurd."
About price information: My point above is that regardless of whether Hayek
bases the "catallaxy" and Good Society (his words here) on the distributive
functions of the "market mechanism", on some theory of human
nature/perception, on "true" liberty, or on cows breaking wind in the
Subcontinent, neither these bases nor the market system in general produce
"freedom" as such, or in-itself. They give some groups, classes and
genders some specific types of power, or *specific* "freedoms" if you wish.
As I believe the historical record still shows, these same mechanisms or
systems also "empower" other people in other, ethically and politically
egregious ways. Among other things, I mean poverty and a relation to
temporality in which time is always already deffered, or in which time
becomes an impersonal form of domination. (c.f. Moishe Postone's *Time,
Labor and Social Domination* on this).
That said, you are right to object to my reducing Hayek's market-theory to
"only" price-information. There are other things in play, true. For what
its worth, I think his take on "the division of knowledge" (as distinct
from the division of labor), is a real contribution to economic, even
social theory. For him, "society" is indeed unimaginably complex. For me
too, and for all kinds of thinkers. But his conclusion is that we
therefore need necessarily rely on markey systems, in fact on market
societies, not just market-economies. I disagree. Moreover, I cannot help
but see Hayek's liberalism and economics as analytically based on price
information, in the last analysis. And surely no one can deny that he is a
fanatic about legitimizing liberal regimes, and nowhere interested in
problematizing them. Hence his current rebirth, post-Keynesianism, and
hence his egregiousness.
But Im no Hayek exegete, so if you've got a better reading, let me know.
Or let me know what you think of the realtions b/w Hayek and Foucault. No
doubt a lot to mine here, including the "liberal" dimensions of Foucault,
as well as the "governmentality" writings (which have to be about the
Keynsian state/society). Right off, I'd say they might agree on society
being unimaginably complex (or an "impossible object" as Laclau and Mouffe
put it), but not only do they arrive here differently -- Hayek through
epistemology and a liberal/conservative ethos, the Nietzchean Foucault thru
a critique of epistemology and what Althusser called the ISA's -- but draw
different conclusions about "freedom," "liberty," and "power."
English; The Unit for Criticism
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign