Friedrich August Von Hayek Biography

Re-stating the Liberal Order: Hayek's Philosophical Economics

Friedrich August Von Hayek History and Biography

Friedrich August von Hayek was born in Vienna in 1899, the son of a professor of botany at the University. He studied law and political economy at Vienna University, the home of the 'Austrian School' of economics which began with Carl Menger and continued under Wieser, Bohm-Bawerk and Mises. From 1927 to 1931 Hayek was director of the Austrian Institute of Economic Research and from 1929 to 1931 was also lecturer in economics at Vienna University. After delivering some lectures on trade cycle theory at the London School of Economics he Was invited to become Tooke Professor of Economic Science and Statistics in 1931, a position he held until 1950. In that year he went to the University of Chicago, not as a professor of economics but to a chair in social and moral science. In 1962 he became Professor of Economic Policy at the University of Freiburg, West Germany. On his retirement in 1969 he returned to his native Austria and was a visiting professor at the University of Salzburg. He has recently left Salzburg to return to Freiburg. However, he has retained his British citizenship, which he acquired in 1938.

In a long and distinguished academic career Hayek has made many significant contributions to knowledge in a wide range of disciplines including economic theory and policy, psychology, law, and political and social philosophy. The early part of his career was entirely devoted to pure economic theory in the areas of money, the trade cycle and capital theory. Throughout the 1930s he was engaged in intellectual battles with Keynes over the theory of money and the causes of industrial fluctuations. He published his most comprehensive treatise on economic theory, The Pure Theory of Capital, in 1941 but he was by then already publishing more general work in the social sciences. In fact he ceased to write on money and general economic theory after 1950, although in recent years his interest in the subject has revived and he has made some controversial suggestions for monetary policy. He shared, with Gunnar Myrdal, the Nobel Prize for Economic Science in 1974.

Since the Second World War Hayek has been known primarily as a legal and political philosopher and a trenchant intellectual critic of planning, socialism and all varieties of statism. He found some notoriety in 1944 with the publication of The Road to Serfdom, in which he argued that even mild state interference with a spontaneously evolving market economy is likely to set in motion processes that eventually lead to the destruction of liberty and the emergence of a totalitarian state. Since then he has made the original argument much more sophisticated and in a series of books and essays (see References) has produced the most complex and comprehensive defence of traditional liberalism this century.

Despite the great variety of his works Hayek's social philo­sophy constitutes a 'system' in which the early works in pure economic theory can be integrated into his writings on law, psychology, methodology and the political philosophy of liberalism. This 'system' of political economy is partly a restate­ment of the eighteenth-century liberal political economy of Smith and Hume, but it also incorporates much of what is valuable in modern social science, most notably the contributions of the 'Austrian School' of economic theory which emerged from the 'marginalist' revolution of the 1870s.