1st Edition

Hayekian Systems Research into the Structure of Social Interaction

By William N. Butos, Thomas J. McQuade Copyright 2023
    202 Pages 17 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The central theme in the work of F.A. Hayek was the problem of order in society, and his focus was epistemological: he was concerned with the constraints on knowledge, the problems associated with its distribution, the structures in which it inheres, and the implications of these issues for the understanding of social phenomena generally. But while his work has greatly improved our understanding of market processes, application to more complex social arrangements was not an unambiguous success.

    In seeking to progress beyond Hayek’s difficulties in formulating a more general theory of spontaneous order, this book fleshes out an analogy between social orders and the biological order detailed in Hayek’s The Sensory Order into a theory of adaptive systems. It focuses first on those aspects of the systems which enable them to learn about their environments, and then on the entrepreneurial processes which implement their anticipatory capabilities. The inclusion of anticipatory elements, inspired by the work of Robert Rosen, results in a theory of social orders which integrates many of the disparate findings of Austrian economists into a self-consistent conceptual framework and has applicability to other social arrangements such as firms and governments. Of particular interest is the interaction between the systems of science and government, an issue of significant current concern which is comprehensively explored here both theoretically and empirically.

    This book is essential reading for anyone interested in Hayek, Austrian economics, social theory, and the history of economic thought more broadly.

    1. Introduction  2. Background  3. Spontaneous order and its discontents  4. Inspiration from The Sensory Order  5. Inspiration from biological systems theory  6. Economic systems  7. Science systems  8. Government systems  9. Interactions with government  10. State-sponsored science  11. Hayekian systems


    William N. Butos is Professor Emeritus in economics at Trinity College, Hartford, CT, and deputy editor of the journal Cosmos+Taxis. His research interests include the economics of science and the interaction of government and science, monetary economics, the history of economic thought, and the social science implications of the work of F.A. Hayek.

    Thomas J. McQuade is an independent scholar. He is a former software entrepreneur and has taught economics at Trinity College in Hartford and as a visiting scholar at New York University. His research interests include the economics, philosophy, and history of science, and the development of the concept of "anticipatory systems" as an approach to social theory that encompasses arrangements such as market, science, government, and firm.

    This book is a brilliant analysis of spontaneous orders from a complexity perspective stimulated by the work of Hayek, Polanyi, and others. It is the result of decades of deep thinking on the subject. Any future analysis of this subject should start from this book.

    – Mario J. Rizzo, Professor of Economics, New York University

    Butos and McQuade show that social processes such as science and market exchange are not just one damn thing after another. These social orders are "Hayekian systems" with a common abstract structure that produces more useful knowledge and a more intricate order than "rational" human design can achieve. Their book is an important and outstanding achievement.

    – Roger Koppl, Professor of Finance, Syracuse University

    Hayekian Systems is a landmark not only for the field of Austrian economics but, more broadly, for the theoretical understanding of how complex social systems (from markets to governments to science) function, learn, change, anticipate, and interact. It is a fascinating work, of remarkable precision, complexity, and reach, and yet is very accessible and clear. It will allow researchers and thinkers from a multitude of backgrounds to grasp Hayek’s extraordinary relevance for conceptualizing current social arrangements and understanding their malfunctioning.

    – Elisabeth Krecké, Macroeconomic Policy Expert, Geopolitical Intelligence Services, Liechtenstein

    This book has something new to offer. Drawing upon their deep knowledge of Hayek's work and Austrian economics, Bill Butos and Tom McQuade craft a general theory of adaptive systems that enhances our understanding of social institutions well beyond the marketplace. Of particular note is their penetrating examination of modern science as a complex social order and their novel account of the distortionary and destabilizing impacts of government intervention on scientific activity. The book will appeal to a broad audience: economists of various stripes (whether Austrian, institutional or evolutionary), political scientists, sociologists of science, and educated lay people with an interest in social and economic issues.

    – David Harper, Clinical Professor of Economics, New York University