Cover image for Friedrich Hayek : a biography
Friedrich Hayek : a biography
Ebenstein, Alan O.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Palgrave, 2001.
Physical Description:
xiii, 403 pages ; : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


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HB103.H3 E23 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This book tells the story of one of the most important public figures of the twentieth century. It is the first full biography of Friedrich Hayek, the Austrian economist who became, over the course of a remarkable career, the great philosopher of liberty in our time. In this richly detailed portrait, Alan Ebenstein chronicles the life, works, and legacy of a visionary thinker, from Hayek's early years as the scholarly son of a physician in fin-de-siecle Vienna on an increasingly wider world as an economist and political philosopher in London, New York, and Chicago. Ebenstein gives a balanced, integrated account of Hayek's extraordinary diverse body of work, from his fist encounter with the free market ideas of mentor Ludwig Von Mises to his magisterial writings in later life on the legal, political, ethical, and economic requirements of a free society. Awarded the Nobel Prize in 1974, Hayek's vision of a renewed classical liberalism-of free markets and free ideas in free societies-has taken hold in much of the world. Alan Ebenstein's clearly written account is an essential starting point for anyone seeking to understand why Hayek's ideas have become the guiding force of our time. His illuminating portrait of Hayek the man brings to new life the spirit of a great scholar and tenacious advocate who has become, in Peter Drucker's words, "our time's preeminent social philosopher."

Author Notes

Alan Ebenstein An economist who received his Ph.D. from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Ebenstein lives in Santa Barbara, California

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Hayek is a perfect example of how economists fall in and out of favor. Hayek was born in 1899 in Austria but became a British citizen and taught at the London School of Economics and the University of Chicago. Hayek was a vocal opponent of government intervention in the marketplace and a critic of Keynesian welfare economics. His Road to Serfdom, published in 1944, laid out the contrarian argument that government programs only forestall economic collapse, which then allows totalitarianism to gain a foothold. Hayek was awarded the 1974 Nobel Prize in Economics; and in the 1980s his theories were used to justify British prime minister Margaret Thatcher's economic policies. Ebenstein is a graduate of the London School of Economics and the author of Today's Isms: Socialism, Capitalism, Fascism, Communism, Libertarianism (2000). His new work is not so much a biography of Hayek as it is a history of Hayek's ideas. Ebenstein categorizes Hayek's life by major events and locations to show how others influenced him and how he influenced those around him. --David Rouse

Publisher's Weekly Review

This biography of the prominent economist-cum-political philosopher fills a significant hole in the intellectual history of the 20th century. Ebenstein blends an account of Hayek's personal life (1899-1992) with analysis of his thought, producing a chronological overview of a man praised by some for extraordinary commitment to his principles and dismissed by others as an ideologue. After a brief flirtation with Fabianism in his youth, Hayek embraced the free market and applied it to the problems of political organization. Emphasizing how the limits of individual knowledge undermine the capacity of human beings to make competent decisions beyond their immediate interests, he was an implacable foe of social or economic planning. With an impeccable libertarian r‚sum‚ running from the Austrian school of economics to the Chicago school economists, and including a Nobel Prize in economics, Hayek parlayed his success as an economist into a career most often remembered for his political writing. Whole chapters of this biography are devoted to description and assessment of Hayek's major writings, and while the treatment is mostly friendly it is not uncritical. Ebenstein does not shy away from Hayek's single-mindedness: in a telling quotation, Hayek admits that when reading the work of others, "that part of the argument which is not sympathetic to me, I pass over." In the brief postscript, Ebenstein, author and coauthor of several books on political and economic thought, allows that the core of Hayek's position, his epistemology, was flawed. Yet the appeal of Hayek's arguments for liberty cannot be denied, and Ebenstein has made a significant contribution to understanding an important figure. 8 pages b&w photos. (Mar.) Forecast: This will be important reading for serious students of economics and political thought a fairly small market that will yield light if durable sales. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

This book covers the entire spectrum of Hayek's thought, from technical economics to political theory. Ebenstein believes that "Hayek was the greatest philosopher of liberty during the twentieth century." However, he does not do much to convince the reader of this assertion. Rather, he lays out Hayek's ideas, places them in their historical context, and then assumes that the reader grasps the profundity of Hayek's insights. This is frustrating if one wants to understand why many economists and political scientists hold Hayek in such high esteem. The book is clearly organized in six sections and 41 chapters, with some chapters as short as three pages. The clear but often colorless writing reflects the fact that Ebenstein focuses on Hayek's writings and does not try to integrate aspects of Hayek's personal life (for example, Hayek's battles with depression or his divorce from his first wife) with his work. Thus, the book is competent but does not compare to other biographies of economists, such as Robert Skidelsky's John Maynard Keynes: A Biography, v. 1, Hopes Betrayed (London, 1983) or Sylvia Nasar's A Beautiful Mind: A Biography of John Forbes Nash, Jr. (1998). Appropriate for upper-division undergraduate through faculty collections. L. D. Johnston St. John's University

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Part 1 War, 1899-1931
1 Family
2 World War I
3 University of Vienna
4 New York
5 Mises
Part 2 England, 1931-1939
7 Robbins
8 Keynes
9 Money and Business Fluctuations
10 Capital
11 International Gold Standard
12 Socialist Calculation
13 Economics, Knowledge, and Information
Part 3 Cambridge, 1940-1949
14 The Abuse and Decline of Reason
15 Methodology
16 The Road to Serfdom
17 Celebrity
18 Mont Pelerin Society
19 Psychology
20 Popper
Part 4 America, 1950-1962
21 University of Chicago
22 Chicago School of Economics
23 Committee on Social Thought
24 Mill
25 The Construction of Liberty
26 Influence
Part 5 Freiburg, 1962-1974
27 Law, Legislation and Liberty
28 Liberty and Law
29 Marx, Evolution, and Utopia
30 Government and Morals
31 History of Ideas
32 Salzburg
Part 6 Nobel Prize, 1974-1992
33 Laureate
34 Friedman
35 Later Monetary Thinking
36 IEA
37 Thatcher
38 Opa
39 The Fatal Conceit
40 Neustift am Wald
41 "Universal Order of Peace"
Chronology of Hayek's Major Works
Bibliographical Essay