[ed: moved from a Facebook post, some typo edits]
I’m almost finished with Hayek’s book, “The Counter-Revolution of Science”. Absolutely fascinating; I wish I had read this book before reading either of his other books, such as “The Fatal Conceit”: The errors of Socialism, or “The Road to Serfdom”. The reason being, of course, is that that Hayek is much more detailed with his analysis of the “origins of positivism and Historicism”, in this book, than he is in those other aforementioned works.
In R to S, Hayek identifies the common origins of German Nazism and Italian Fascism as Socialism; demonstrating Mussolini’s early Communist leaning before his divergence towards nationalism, during the First Comintern of 1915. Hayek also continues this commonality by tethering Bismarckian, Kaiserreich Deutschland realpolitik, Prussian militarism, Autarky, and socialpolitik to German Nazism.
This was all well and good- especially since I had been trained, since high school, that Fascism was a capitalist reaction against socialism- but it left me hating the 20th century, with all its disgusting nationalism and socialism, and opining for the ‘good ‘ole 19th century liberalism.
In a similar vein, Hayek’s “The Fatal Conceit: The errors of socialism”, points out the achievements of the enlightenment era in its construction of the ‘invisible hand’, or, as Hayek coined it ‘spontaneous order’ within society (though, Lao Tzu is known to have developed such insights long before this era; see Rothbard’s “Economic Thought before Adam Smith). This ‘order’, or order due to the lack there-of, was the basis for Hayek’s criticism of such positivist/ rationalist thinking; the notion that we can design society to our liking, based upon the scientific insights of central planners. Hayek would later go on to say that this self-importance, or “FATAL CONCEIT”, is was founded on the ‘pretense of knowledge’.
Again, though; after reading this book, I felt no different than after reading R to S: if only we could go back to the days of 19th century liberalism (understandable, however, considering that I had previously, before turning libertarian, marveled at the grotesque socialistic militarism of the 20th century.).
After reading “The Counter Revolution of Science”, however, I am beginning to see that the 19th century was not so purely liberal as I had though. ‘How?’ I thought to myself’ ,How could such liberal thinking be tarnished by Imperialist notions and socialist though? How?’ Well… Hayek, in the “The Counter Revolution of Science”, points out the neglected influence of Saint-Simon, Comet, and Hegel in producing such positivism and Historicism. He describes these thinkers as the social engineers who strove to mirror the natural scientific approach- which was all the rage at the time- and create a society which desired to create greater production and prosperity, rather than the traditional liberal, “anti-scientific” thought.
I, myself, have often wondered how such a liberal thinker as JS Mill could have turned to such socialist thought; nothing can further exemplify Saint-Simon’s profound influence on this revolution than JSM’s remarks on the subject:
“partly by their writing that [his] eyes were opened to the very limited and temporary value of the old political economy, which assumes private property and inheritance as indefeasible facts and freedom of production and exchange as the denier mot of social improvement.” (The Counter-Revolution of Science, pg. 158)
Though I am not quite finished with this book as of yet, I felt as if I should write about it in order to convey to the rest of this group how enlightening this worth-while read really is. I say worth-while because, it is key in demonstrating the almost-butterfly-like effect Saint-Simon had on European history. Hayek does this by explaining how Simon’s, as well as Comet’s writings had a profound influence on the European banking cartel formation, infrastructure, and even upon Napoleon III, Marx, and Bismarck’s Deutschland. All of which, creates a bigger picture, and leaves me with the view that the well of liberalism (not that it was originally pure liberalism to begin with) was poisoned by those, as Saint-Simon puts it, who would strive to create this “Counter-Revolution of Science”.