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Counter Revolution of Science Paperback – June 1, 1980

4.7 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 415 pages
  • Publisher: Liberty Fund Inc. (June 1, 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0913966673
  • ISBN-13: 978-0913966679
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,366,337 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By D. W. MacKenzie on January 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Counter Revolution of Science is an important book for several reasons. First, The CRS explains the futility of schemes to plan progress, the impossibility of efforts for the "human mind to lift itself up by its own bootstraps". What this means is that "the attempt of conscious reason to control its own development limits the very growth to what the human mind can could foresee". Freedom "releases the knowledge and energies of countless individuals that could never be utilized in a society consciously directed from the top". Second, the CRS explains how the mindset of the physical sciences, which focuses on objective factors, fails when applied to economics. Understanding economics requires an appreciation of subjectivity in human relations. Engineers pursue technical excellence according to objective scientific principles, without considering economic factors (i.e. scarcity), and worse still the application of mathematical methods from the social sciences creates a false and dangerous impression that society can itself be engineered. Third, Hayek examines the history of the development of `scientistic' ideas, whereby various thinkers (especially St Simon and Comte) popularized positivism, socialism, and corporatism. Finally, reading the CRS instills an appreciation of the humility of individualism and disdain for the hubris of collectivism in the reader.

Generally speaking, Hayek makes the importance of recognizing and respecting the limits of human reason abundantly clear. Hayek saw that modern collectivism was working to undo the intellectual progress made during the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment. Collectivism was antithetical to reason, and would lead us to a new Dark Age if not reversed.
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Format: Paperback
Too often, Hayek is not given enough credit. Too many people see him as merely a critic of socialism and defender of libertarianism (not that there's anything wrong with that). But Hayek was a brilliant social philosopher too and this book is Hayek at his best.
Unfortunately, this book begs to be misunderstood. I fear that people will read the second section before the first (if they read the first at all), and frankly, I could've done without the second.
At base, this book is not a critique on planning. It is a philosophical explanation of how we gain and use knowledge in the natural and social sciences. After Hayek lays out what he feels are mistakes in the methods of social science (psychologism, holism, scientism), he examines the mistakes thinkers have made that brought them to these -isms. Then and only then does he offer a critique of planning but ONE WILL NOT UNDERSTAND IN FULL THE SECOND SECTION WITHOUT HAVEING READ AND ABSORBED THE IDEAS IN THE FIRST! One may even want to read Popper's 'The Poverty of Historicism' before or with this book.
In closing, if you're looking for a critique on planning and socialism, read 'The Road To Serfdom' or 'Individualism and Economic Order', but if you want a great critique of science (social as well as natural) and it's current methods, read this one WITH CARE!
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Format: Paperback
In this dense book Hayek probes the origins of socialist thought. His account of the attempt to make history a mathematical science and the differences between subjective and objective thought is some of the most interesting and thought provoking discussion written this century.
It is a hard read but well worth the effort.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The other reviewers on Amazon have done an excellent job summarizing the main points in this book. I will briefly contribute to this discussion by detailing the arguments that stood out to me.

First of all, the book is dividied into two sections: (1) Scientism and the Study of Society; and (2) The Counter-Revolution of Science. The former expounds the differences and peculiar histories of both the social and natural sciences, while the latter seeks to understand the historical development of "scientism", finding its roots in the rationalistic tradition of French (continental) thought.

The first part is the more important section, and should be read carefully. Hayek traces the long escape of natural science from the anthropomorphic thought that characterized the Middle Ages. External events were believed to possess some transcendental reality. Slowly, however, science began to discover explanations of external reality that differed from our common sense perceptions. "Facts", it was argued, are different from "appearances." Note that in this discussion Hayek is not attacking the character of science when it is conducted in its own proper sphere. Science has much to say about the relation of material things to other things (cause and effect, etc.). Scientific study errs, however, when it begins to substitute material explanations for human affairs. There are some phenomena that cannot be explained by their material characteristics. In fact, most phenomena involving human opinions and beliefs cannot be explained by natural science. Hayek gives several illuminating examples to illustrate his case: "words", "sentences", "crimes" "family", "exchange", "money" etc.
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