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Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason

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Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason is a series of fascinating essays on the study of social phenomena. How to best and most accurately study social interactions has long been debated intensely, and there are two main approaches: the positivists, who ignore intent and belief and draw on methods based in the sciences; and the nonpositivists, who argue that opinions and ideas drive action and are central to understanding social behavior. F. A. Hayek’s opposition to the positivists and their claims to scientific rigor and certainty in the study of human behavior is a running theme of this important book.

Hayek argues that the vast number of elements whose interactions create social structures and institutions make it unlikely that social science can predict precise outcomes. Instead, he contends, we should strive to simply understand the principles by which phenomena are produced. For Hayek this modesty of aspirations went hand in hand with his concern over widespread enthusiasm for economic planning. As a result, these essays are relevant to ongoing debates within the social sciences and to discussion about the role government can and should play in the economy.

344 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2010

The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek

Economics and Business: Economics--General Theory and Principles

Sociology: Social Institutions

Table of Contents

Editorial Foreword      


Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason

Prelude                 Individualism: True and False           

Part One: Scientism and the Study of Society

One                      The Influence of the Natural Sciences on the Social Sciences           

Two                      The Problem and the Method of the Natural Sciences          

Three                    The Subjective Character of the Data of the Social Sciences

Four                      The Individualist and ‘Compositive’ Method of the Social Sciences  

Five                      The Objectivism of the Scientistic Approach

Six                        The Collectivism of the Scientistic Approach

Seven                    The Historicism of the Scientistic Approach 

Eight                     ‘Purposive’ Social Formations         

Nine                      ‘Conscious’ Direction and the Growth of Reason     

Ten                       Engineers and Planners        

Part Two: The Counter-Revolution of Science

Eleven                   The Source of the Scientistic Hubris: L’Ecole Polytechnique          

Twelve                  The “Accoucheur d’Idées”: Henri de Saint-Simon    

Thirteen                 Social Physics: Saint-Simon and Comte       

Fourteen               The Religion of the Engineers: Enfantin and the Saint-Simonians        

Fifteen                   Saint-Simonian Influence     

Sixteen                  Sociology: Comte and His successors          

Part Three: Comte and Hegel

Seventeen             Comte and Hegel    

Appendix: Related Documents

Some Notes on Propaganda in Germany (1939)          

Selected Correspondence, F. A. Hayek to Fritz Machlup (1940–41)   

Preface to the U. S. Edition (1952)      

Preface to the German Edition (1959)  



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