Sociology and Anthropology Vol. 6(10), pp. 784 - 793
DOI: 10.13189/sa.2018.061004
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Man or Machine? Liberalism Old and New: From Wilhelm von Humboldt to the Teachings of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich August von Hayek


Nahyan Niazi *
Department of Philosophy, University of Lucerne, Switzerland

ABSTRACT

The attraction of the Austrian school's liberalism lies in its seemingly clear-cut guidelines in deciding what the limits of government activities should be – namely, to provide security and peace, and to uphold the laws, especially property laws, all in order to ensure the unhampered functioning of the market system. In this paper, I argue that the Austrian brand of liberalism as represented by Ludwig von Mises (LvM) and Friedrich August von Hayek (FAvH) is as much concerned with checking and curtailing government activities as it is with regulating the human mind. Deregulation of the market and regulation of the mind go hand in hand with the instrumental expansion of market competition resulting in a specific mode of production and way of thinking. From an ethical point of view, the supreme role of market competition has to be called into question as it not only narrows the choices of feasible ways of life, especially to those not endowed with capital, but also conditions the way we think (mind control). To highlight this critique of the Austrian brand of liberalism I compare it to the perfectionism of the classic liberal thinker Wilhelm von Humboldt (WvH), whose liberalism is wrongly believed to be in accordance with LvM and FAvH's liberalism. WvH avoided formulating a liberal vision of a polity without a rich perfectionist conception of human nature. This conception provides the normative backdrop of his entire political thinking. Without WvH's finespun understanding of human nature and care for self-realization the reign of competitive markets transforms liberalism into an alienating force regulating the human mind in accordance with consumerism and, as WvH would say, turning man into a machine.

KEYWORDS
Liberalism, Perfectionism, Market Competition, Self-realization, Alienation, (De-)Regulation, Human Mind

Cite this paper
Nahyan Niazi . "Man or Machine? Liberalism Old and New: From Wilhelm von Humboldt to the Teachings of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich August von Hayek." Sociology and Anthropology 6.10 (2018) 784 - 793. doi: 10.13189/sa.2018.061004.