Philosophical Papers and Review

  • Abbreviation: Philos. Papers Rev
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-663X
  • DOI: 10.5897/PPR
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 39


Hayek’s concept of orders in relation to technicism and neo-liberalism

Petrus Simons
  • Petrus Simons
  • School of Basic Sciences, North-West University, Vaal Triangle Campus, South Africa.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 29 August 2015
  •  Accepted: 21 October 2015
  •  Published: 31 January 2016


Since the 1970s, neo-liberalism has become a key ideology driving the global economy. It originates in the liberalism of enlightenment thinkers, neo-classical economics (marginal utility) and a resistance to totalitarianism. In 1938 a colloquium of prominent economists/philosophers, discussed how 19th century liberalism could be renewed without a naturalistic ‘laissez-faire’ approach. From 1944, with the publication of “The road to serfdom” till almost the end of his life, Hayek expounded and developed key thoughts of the colloquium, such as the market economy or, in his words, catallaxy, a spontaneously evolving order, based on private property, subject to general rules of conduct, but not to state control. Its actors seek to maximise their income, albeit on the basis of fragmentary, dispersed, knowledge. Thus, Hayek’s thoughts have contributed to the emergence of neo-liberalism during the 1980s and following years as a set of policy prescriptions guiding international organisations such as the international monetary fund (IMF) etc. as well as many nations. Neo-liberalism should be seen in relationship with technicism, an ideology of progress through science and technology. Since the renaissance and the enlightenment, technicism has become a pervasive influence on the whole of Western culture to the extent that it is hardly noticed. Neo-liberal policies have been acting as a catalyst of technicism, especially through global free trade. This study aims at identifying three weaknesses in Hayek’s thinking, especially as expressed in his concept of three orders: catallaxi, taxes and cosmos: the theory of the catallaxi shows an imprint of technicism, especially in the form of an automatically working price mechanism and the construction of rules for the catallaxi; he has failed to appreciate problems such as the trend towards the formation of monopolies/oligopolies, based on expensive new technics, and its adverse environmental impacts. The latter cannot solely be solved through the price mechanism; the ordering of the market society by rules developed by experts might not be conducive to freedom. An alternative view of a free society is inspired by the order of taxes and the principle of sphere sovereignty developed by reformational philosophy.

Key words: Hayek, market society, price mechanism, neo-liberalism, orders, catallaxy, taxi, freedom.