Hayek and Modern Liberalism
by Chandran Kukathas: Oxford University Press, Australia, 1989.
It is a great pleasure to review a book that can be commended as highly as Hayek and Modern Liberalism. Well organised and clearly written, it contains original scholarship of a high order and serves as a primer on some central aspects of contemporary liberal thought, with a luminous introduction to the theory of spontaneous orders, a critique of Hayek on liberty, and a searching analysis of Hayek's conservatism compared with that of Oakeshott and Scruton. John Gray, one of the leading students of liberalism and Hayek have deservedly acclaimed it.
Kukathas advances two theses. The minor one asserts that Hayek provides
a comprehensive social doctrine, which should engage the close attention of
both the critics and the defenders of classical (non-socialist) liberalism.
However it appears that Hayek falls short of the full statement that is required to identify the limits of individual freedom and the proper scope of government.
The major thesis concerns the grounds of liberalism. Kukathas argues that
Hayek's defence rests on presuppositions that are incompatible. On the one
hand, the scepticism and moral relativity of Hume; on the other, Kant's quest for rationally justified foundations of belief. The tension between these contrary tendencies emerges time after time as Kukathas explores Hayek's views on the key issues in political philosophy.
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