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Marx, Hayek,and Utopia

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TIBOR R. MACHAN, PHILOSOPHY OF THE SOCIAL SCIENCES 28, no. 4 (DECEMBER 1998):  574-79


Tibor R. Machan, who praised Sciabarra's work, Ayn Rand:  The Russian Radical, engages Marx, Hayek, and Utopia in this critical review. 

"Chris Sciabarra is very serious about dialectics, of that we can be sure."  Sciabarra presents Marx and Hayek as dialectical thinkers.  "With Hayek the claim is more controversial.   Indeed," states Machan, "Hayek does not appear ever to align himself to any kind of dialectical thinking, so Sciabarra has his work cut out for him. . . . There are useful notes, a very fine bibliography, and a competent index. The idea of the book is, to say the least bold:  suggesting that Marx and Hayek share a common methodology, when nearly everyone would think they are diametrically opposed on virtually all points!  The treatment is compelling, though . . . often less than complete:   some explanations that would have helped are missing." 

Machan criticizes Sciabarra's "persistently metatheoretical approach" because it "avoids talking of a position that is supposedly right over some other that may be wrong."  He thinks Sciabarra needs to present a clearer exposition of dialectics.  "It is not clear from this work, in short, what is the distinctively dialectical method of social analysis."   Moreover, while "Hayek toyed with organismic analysis, . . . there is little given to us from Hayek himself to serve to identify Hayek as a dialectician."   Machan also criticizes the disparagement of so-called "ahistorical" thinking, since most thinkers "usually hold the position that there are some facts about human life that transcend any particular point in human history because, well, we are concerned with human beings in general and that itself presupposes certain facts that aren't tied to one or another person or period of history."

Machan stresses, however, that "Sciabarra has given us a book that certainly manages to raise numerous fascinating questions and to offer up some provocative suggestions. . . . But of course not everything can be done in one book.  It would probably be very fruitful if Sciabarra would produce for us a work in which the ideas that play such a significant role in his two books and his other writings gained full exploration in their own right, not as they play a role in the works of other thinkers.  Why should we use dialectical thinking, as opposed to other types?  Why is dualism a bad thing?  What is the nature of part-whole analysis?   What are the virtues and vices, if any, of the organismic approach?" 

Machan warns of the "blow-up fallacy" -- that of "taking a bit of reality, learning about it well, then claiming that what one has learned applies to all of it."  He worries that Sciabarra may be succumbing to this when he finds "dialectical thinking nearly everywhere, or at least wherever there is merit to some thinking."  Ultimately, states Machan, we need to answer the "question that really matters" --  that is, "which [approach] is closer to getting things right, both methodologically and substantively."

Tibor R. Machan, Chapman University


Sciabarra Responds to Machan and Others Click here to view the Author's response

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