“There is something fundamentally wrong with an approach which habitually disregards . . . the unavoidable imperfection of man’s knowledge.”
—F. A. Hayek, “The Use of Knowledge in Society”
F. A. Hayek (1899-1992) was a Viennese-born scholar who received a Nobel prize in economics in 1974. His “The Use of Knowledge in Society” (1945) is one of the first works of economic epistemology: the study of how, to what extent, and under what conditions economic actors can overcome their innate ignorance in the face of complexity.
One purpose of the Hayek Project is to extend the epistemological project into other fields, such as political science, where the role of fallible ideas (as opposed to interests and values) as determinants of political behavior and causes of policy error has received relatively little attention.
Another purpose is to revive the epistemological project in economics. There, it fell by the wayside when Hayek’s insights were flattened into the notion that prices “convey knowledge” without needing to be interpreted by fallible human agents. In contemporary “information economics,” too, knowledge is treated as the default condition, such that ignorance must be the result of incentives not to reveal known information.
The Hayek Project is sponsored by the Critical Review Foundation, which publishes Critical Review and holds occasional scholarly conferences. We invite the submission of published and working papers to be posted on this site, subject to peer review. Pending funding, we would like to give fellowships for research that furthers the Hayek Project.
We are not Hayek hagiographers, so we are not looking for scholarship about Hayek except inasmuch as it may illuminate social-science epistemology. We also strictly separate Hayek’s epistemological project from his political advocacy. Therefore, we are interested in empirical and theoretical work that emphasizes the role of ignorance and error in human affairs, regardless of whether it discusses Hayek explicitly or not; and we are not looking for “Hayekian” political agitation à la The Road to Serfdom, “Hayekian” political theory à la The Mirage of Social Justice, “Hayekian” intellectual history à la The Counter-Revolution of Science, or “Hayekian” business-cycle theory à la Prices and Production. Nor are we hoping only to receive defenses of Hayek. We support vigorous criticism of his ideas, some of which we ourselves have published, and which is linked below. His epistemological project is our inspiration, not our dogma.