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Hayek's Challenge: An Intellectual Biography of F.A. Hayek Paperback – December 15, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0226091938 ISBN-10: 0226091937

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Hayek is fortunate in his biographer. Hayek's Challenge is a success, and Caldwell proves himself capable of presenting Hayek's ideas - in all fields - with both depth and clarity.... Hayek's challenge is worth remembering, and Bruce Caldwell has done a great service by reminding us of it." - Jason Steorts, National Review "Bruce Caldwell's intellectual biography of the great Austrian is a wonderful work." - Richard D. North, Independent (UK) "Hayek has spawned a burgeoning literature, often expressing polarized, jargon-laden views. This accessible introduction to Hayek's intellectual life and times is a refreshing exception." - Choice"

From the Inside Flap

Friedrich A. Hayek is regarded as one of the preeminent economic theorists of the twentieth century, as much for his work outside of economics as for his work within it. During a career spanning several decades, he made contributions in fields as diverse as psychology, political philosophy, the history of ideas, and the methodology of the social sciences. Bruce Caldwell--editor of The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek--understands Hayek's thought like few others, and with this book he offers us the first full intellectual biography of this pivotal social theorist.

Caldwell begins by providing the necessary background for understanding Hayek's thought, tracing the emergence, in fin-de-siècle Vienna, of the Austrian school of economics--a distinctive analysis forged in the midst of contending schools of thought. In the second part of the book, Caldwell follows the path by which Hayek, beginning from the standard Austrian assumptions, gradually developed his unique perspective on not only economics but a broad range of social phenomena. In the third part, Caldwell offers both an assessment of Hayek's arguments and, in an epilogue, an insightful estimation of how Hayek's insights can help us to clarify and reexamine changes in the field of economics during the twentieth century.

As Hayek's ideas matured, he became increasingly critical of developments within mainstream economics: his works grew increasingly contrarian and evolved in striking--and sometimes seemingly contradictory--ways. Caldwell is ideally suited to explain the complex evolution of Hayek's thought, and his analysis here is nothing short of brilliant, impressively situating Hayek in a broader intellectual context, unpacking the often difficult turns in his thinking, and showing how his economic ideas came to inform his ideas on the other social sciences.

Hayek's Challenge will be received as one of the most important works published on this thinker in recent decades.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 500 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (December 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226091937
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226091938
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,159,192 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Despite these facts, this is a readable book worth the effort.
Peter A. Kindle
Bruce Caldwell has written, in my opinion, the best book in economics for 2003.
Peter J. Boettke
This is one of the best non-fiction books I have read in a long time.
Andrew Cooke

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

86 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Peter J. Boettke on December 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
On the plane to and from the Southern Economic Association meetings in San Antonio (including a 3 hour delay in Dallas on the way home) in November I had the opportunity to read the best book written in Austrian economics in a generation -- Bruce Caldwell's Hayek's Challenge (University of Chicago Press, 2003). Caldwell, as to be expected, is a master historian of thought and constructs a narrative of Hayek's evolution of as a thinker that is simply better than any alternative account. And, in the process, Caldwell tells the story of the development of Austrian economics from Menger to today better than I have ever seen. This is a phenomenal work of scholarship and a beautifully written book. The book represents the history of economics as it should be written --- a subtle treatment of economic doctrine, contextualization of the evolution of argument within its broader history of philosophical, political and economic debates, and engagingly written. As far as economics goes, this book is a page turner. It is nothing short of a brilliant. Bruce Caldwell has written, in my opinion, the best book in economics for 2003.
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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Peter A. Kindle on May 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Tasked with the need to understand a contemporary, conservative thinker in a doctoral course on social justice, I was enriched by the professor's suggestion that I focus on Hayek. In due course I came upon this book by Caldwell. I wish to echo the earlier reviewers praise - this book is everything an intellectual history should be. The reader will become intimately familiar with the historical antecedents to Hayek, the academic, cultural, and historical milieu in which he worked, and the likely future his ideas will have.
I approached this book as a complete novice. I had never heard of Hayek, and frankly, reading this book stretched my 18 hours of undergraduate economics about as far as they could be stretched, but I was left with an astonishing respect for this economist turned political theorist. How is it possible that Hayek could have escaped my notice for 50 years?
One hundred and thirty pages are devoted, not to Hayek, but to Austrian school economics (i.e. - subjective value, marginalism, entrepreneurship) and its founder Carl Menger. Caldwell introduces key figures in the Austrian school at length (Bohm-Bawerk, Wieser, and Mises) as well as the chief protagonists of the school (German historical, socialism).
Into this fray comes Hayek, an ambitious but not a particularly aggressive academic. Any attempt at summarizing Hayek's thought is easily criticized, but from my personal perspective, Hayek seems to have been a master at synthesis. He linked what today would be called cognitive psychology with philosophy to produce an epistemology that is foundational to all his subsequent work. Further, he linked this epistemology with social evolution to explain social advance, social stability, and social institutions and values.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First off, I want to echo the other reviewers in my praise for the book. The background in economic history was valuable to me and helps put the work that Hayek did into perspective. Though it may be "academic" (any look at the philosophy behind economics is probably not for the same audience as more instrumental books -- like "How to be successful" or whatever). That being said the book is well written and if anyone is interested in the influence of positivism on economics, the division of psychology and economics into separate disciplines, the roots of socialism and other foundational material, this book presents that information in a logical, clear way.

It cautions at the beginning that Hayek's work was complex and interdependent. There is a tendancy to take a paragraph by Hayek from one place and use it as a representation of the whole, like the blind men and the elephant. I would suggest strongly that to call him foundational in the current US conversativism is probably wrong. One clue is that as an extra to the "Constitution of Liberty" there is an essay by Hayek called "Why I am not a conservative."

Hayek was fascinated with "knowledge" in the sense that somehow humans manage to coordiante activity and believe that we share knowledge, but in reality it is not possible. Each of sees what we see and we do not see what others see. Somehow, unconsciously, we have evolved a way of being able to use the knowledge of others as well as our own.

His argument against socialism was basically that it breaks some of the ways of knowing what others are doing. A standard definition of Economics is that it is about how people make decisions in conditions of scarcity. In other words, there is an assumption that there is never enough to go around.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Cooke on May 20, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the best non-fiction books I have read in a long time. I have no idea how I came to buy this - I rarely read biographies, consider myself left-wing, am a computer programmer who was educated as a physicist (so have no background in economics), and only vaguely recognise his name - so must assume someone recommended it to me. Whoever that person was: Thank-you!

I think there are two things that makes this such a good read. Most important is the subject matter - Hayek seems to have been a pretty smart chap who was interested by, and contributed to, a wide range of subjects, at a time (the latter 2/3s of the twentieth century) when a lot was happening. And because he kept shifting fields and, to some extent, revising his opinions, you get to watch the evolution of a wide range of disciplines.

So this book touches on subjects like scientific methodology; emergent behaviours; how money acts as a way to signal information; the foundations of economics (do you have to assume everyone is "perfectly greedy", for example?); models of consciousness; evolutionary biology and group selection - interesting problems that are relevant today, presented in a historical context that is extremely helpful in understanding their peculiarities. Maybe it sounds crazy (or stupid), but until I read this book I had no idea how history could be so useful, relevant and informative.

Much credit must also go (my "second reason") to the author - I think this is impressively well written. Caldwell is a very careful guide who takes pains not only to justify what he says, but also gently directs you through what could be a terribly confusing and complex journey by identifying common threads, summarizing discussions, and repeatedly placing everything within its proper context. Please write another book (how about Popper?)!
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