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In this chapter I offer a brief account of some central issues in Hayek's political thought, by way of discussing four important building blocks which play a role in their construction. I discuss several strands that go to make up his work, and some of the problems to which they give rise. I conclude with a suggestion about the relative priority that different themes might usefully be given, and with some remarks about the more narrowly political implications of Hayek's work. What are these different strands?
First, there are ideas stemming from the debate about economic calculation under socialism, and Hayek's related views concerning the use of knowledge in (commercial) society. Hayek thought that there was no alternative - for commercial societies - but to make use of price mechanisms, to aspects of whose significance he drew attention. At the same time, Hayek argued - for example, in his “Trend of Economic Thinking” ( 1991) - that these also imposed certain constraints over what we might be able to accomplish, politically. This strand of argument - and its later extension into the claim that within such commercial societies the ideal of “social justice” is unrealizable - plays a significant role in his political thought.
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