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International Encyclopedia of Economic Sociology: Libertarianism

As I mentioned here and here, I wrote an entry on "libertarianism" for the International Encyclopedia of Economic Sociology. The entry surveys those who have contributed to a libertarian "sociology," thinkers such as Herbert Spencer, Carl Menger, F. A. Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, and Ayn Rand.

I am pleased, today, to publish that entry, with permission from Routledge, on my website:


Comments welcome. Cross-posted to L&P and the Mises Economics Blog.


Concerning Herbert Spencer, the sociologist, Talcott Parsons, began his book, The Structure of Social Action, with the question,""Who now reads Spencer?" with the implication that nobody was reading him anymore. That proved a bit ironic, since Parsons, himself, in his later years, was one of the social scientists who spearheaded the revival of interest in Spencer, when he began to take social evolutionism seriously, probably in reaction to the revival of Marxism in the social sciences.

That's very, very interesting, Jim. I wasn't aware of that. Thanks for sharing...

See the Wikipedia article on Talcott Parsons which summarizes his work, including his later social evolutionist theorizing.

Thanks, Jim; did a little surfing over the weekend, and came upon a number of sources that trace Parsons' "structural functionalism" to Spencer, and others. Some very interesting material comes up with a google search on Parsons + Spencer. See here.

Solid intellectual definition. Of course he could have said libertarians do not believe in initiating force or fraud against other individuals, and mind their own business, expecting others to do the same. Leaving it at that.

;-) Powell

Thanks so much for posting this. Ditto for the one on Marx, which I wish I could've read during college (not to mention MARX, HAYEK, AND UTOPIA). Excellent work, as always!

Thanks, Powell and Damon for your comments.

As for MARX, HAYEK, AND UTOPIA: It was my very first book, and having recently commemorated the tenth anniversary of its publication, I remain very proud of it.

Dr. Sciabarra, EXCELLENT WORK - you are an example of one who defies the adage that scholars are not good writers (YOU ARE A LUCID AND TRENCHANT WRITER)! I have a question, however. I will be attending a graduate sociology program in the fall of 2006. Is it "possible" - i.e. to complete course work with good grades, remain in good stead with faculty, and finish a dissertation - for a graduate sociology student to be overt about their libertarianism as some are in philosophy, pol. sci., and economics?

Brian, thanks very much for your kind words with regard to my articles in the IEES.

As for your question: Yes, it is entirely possible to complete course work with good grades, etc., and to be overt about one's libertarianism. I think the key here is this: As long as you are open to active engagement with those who have different perspectives, and show an ability to master those different perspectives, that is, truly understand them, I don't see any problem in an academic setting.

Yes, there will always be academics who are nasty, mean, and unfair. Avoid them. Try to find faculty with whom you can work and who will respect your viewpoint. Perhaps I should feel privileged, for when I studied at NYU, I studied with some of the finest Austrian economics scholars (Kirzner, Garrison, Littlechild, O'Driscoll, Rizzo, etc.), while also studying with some very important left-wing scholars (Jim Becker, Wolf Heydebrand, and my thesis advisor, Bertell Ollman). It is possible.

Good luck!