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The Constitution of Liberty: The Definitive Edition (Collected Works of F.A. Hayek (Paperback)) Paperback – 1 Apr 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 596 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (1 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226315398
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226315393
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 544,339 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Number 9 on the "National Review"'s list of the top 100 books of the twentieth century

--National Review

"One of the great political works of our time . . . . The twentieth-century successor to John Stuart Mill's essay, 'On Liberty.'"


"A reflective, often biting, commentary on the nature of our society and its dominant thought by one who is passionately opposed to the coercion of human beings by the arbitrary will of others, who puts liberty above welfare and is sanguine that greater welfare will thereby ensue."

--New York Times Book Review

"In an age when many on the right are worried that the Obama administration's reform of health care is leading us toward socialism, Hayek's warnings from the mid-twentieth century about society's slide toward despotism, and his principled defense of a minimal state, have found strong political resonance. . . . The notes [to this edition] make clear the extraordinary breadth and depth of Hayek s erudition and his ability to wander far beyond economics into history, philosophy, biology, and other fields."
--Francis Fukuyama "New York Times Book Review ""

About the Author

F. A. Hayek (1899–1992), recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991 and cowinner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1974, was a pioneer in monetary theory and a leading proponent of classical liberalism in the twentieth century. Ronald Hamowy is professor of history emeritus at the University of Alberta. He is the editor of The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, among other books.

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Format: Paperback
The Constitution of Liberty can in many ways be regarded as Hayek's most important work. It centres around a highly nuanced defence of the free market based upon the concept of spontaneous order. But in articulating this defence Hayek skilfully interweaves philosophical and historical insights, at all times displaying tremendous erudition and learning.

The result is not a comprehensive treatise like von Mises's Human Action, or the Wealth of Nations. Hayek always regarded himself as an intellectual 'muddler' (albeit a brilliant one). And his work reflects this. I prefer him when he is focused upon a particular issue at hand, like in The Road to Serfdom, or in the essays that comprise Individualism and the Economic Order.

This is not to detract from the value of this work. Hayek's defence of negative verses freedom, his description of the rule of law, the chapter on Responsibility and Freedom, and the post-script 'Why I am not a Conservative,' deserve to be treasured. Hayek's intellectual integrity shines through here. He was never a polemist or an extremist, and this has compromised his stature amongst libertarians. But Hayek's particular position on any single issue should not be of concern here. A reiteration of classical liberalism will always be of value, but this work stands out for the subtlety of its insights, and the range and depth of its arguments. Hayek's ideas should be recognised as providing, along with those of Mises and Milton Friedman, the best twentieth century defence of a free and spontaneously ordered society; a defence which should be distinguished from the limited and compromised one provided by many neo-classical economists, by social democrats or conservatives, and the dogma provided by Aynn Rand and her disciples.
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Format: Paperback
Hayek undertook a vitally important task when he set out to write the The Constitution of Liberty. He aimed at finding the proper limits between public and private life. How far should the authority of the state extend? What areas of life should be beyond the reach of the government? Hayek is stating his version of the general principles of classical liberalism, based on utilitarian ethics. Since his arguments are utilitarian, this book has economic overtones.

Hayek's purpose in restating the principles of liberal society is to defend these principles against the opposing intellectual movement of collectivism. Western Civilization succeeded largely because of its individualism. Collectivism is undermining the basis of modern civilization in the West. Individualism is important because we each lack the knowledge needed to rationally direct the affairs of others. Some people believe that they can plan out society because they are `experts' or because they are educated. Hayek saw that nobody can posses the knowledge needed to design a rational order for society. As Hayek put it, "it is largely because civilization enables us constantly to profit from knowledge which we individually do not posses that men can pursue their individual ends more successfully than they could alone".

In writing this book, Hayek shifted his attention away from full-blown socialism and towards the modern welfare state. Hayek seems to have felt that the case for socialism had been sufficiently weakened so as to allow him to critique welfare states. Hayek accepted some types of government intervention that libertarians typically oppose. Rather than opposing each program point by point, Hayek sought out some `lynchpin issues' that would limit state growth.
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I've read Hayek's polemics against socialism like The Fatal Conceit and The Road to Serfdom and found them very disappointing, he is a great writer and I find his style and content in some ways similar to another english writer, the socialist, George Orwell but these books seemed very negative.

This book is divided into three sections and post script, the first The Value of Freedom outlines Hayek's views on liberty, reason, responsibility and progress and politics, the second section on Freedom and The Law outlines Hayek's views on the relationship between individual freedom and the state, the final section is on Freedom and The Welfare State and begins with an essay on the decline of socialism and the rise of the welfare state.

This book is a lot more complete and holistic, you get a much clearer idea of what Hayek's proposing aswell as opposing, even if you dont necessarily agree.

In reading it Hayek does appear to be a lot less dogmatic than many of his supporters or popularisers and he's a great writer besides, the very simple introduction which seeks to link Hayek with contemporary wars of religion with the islamic world and the rise of neo-conservatism in America is over shadowed by the main work (infact it reads a lot like Trotsky paying homage to Marx or any other political pundit who tries to bask in reflected glory).

I would seriously recommend the chapter on the decline of socialism and the rise of the welfare state to anyone but to socialists in particular.
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