I got my first taste of the existence of boundary policing within philosophy a year after graduation (Tufts 93): at my graduation a family friend had given me a collection of essays by Isaiah Berlin. Subsequently, I devoured it and his other writings; went on to Vico (of course), and a whole lot of other obscure authors. A year later I went back to Tufts to celebrate some friends' graduation and to beg for a TA job (in political science); as it happened I bumped into a "famous student of Rawls" on campus; he (not Rawls) was a very good teacher and involved in the great questions of the day in Washington. I admired him. He recognized me, we made some small talk, and for whatever reason I revealed my excitement about Berlin (I may have even carried a totemic copy of Four Essays on Liberty around with me). I am not sure what I expected, but was completely taken aback by the disapproving grunts, and was told something to the effect that Berlin isn't "really philosophy." Fair enough.
Much later I decided that Rawls had created (by design/also here) a "school" with broadly shared sensitivities and, thus, gaps in scholarly knowledge. For, Rawls would teach his own work in light of constructed traditions from which he privileged certain thinkers (including, in fact, Berlin when his "famous student" was at Harvard; Rawls studied with Berlin at Oxford on his Fullbright). One consequence of this way of teaching I noted in passing last week: in Theory of Justice (TJ), Rawls calls attention to the significance of the now forgotten Frank Knight (and Knight's debates with Arrow)), but from the evidence available to me it's clear that Rawls did not teach his students to appreciate the significance of Knight to TJ.
This by way of introduction to the topic of the present post: from the vantage point of contemporary political philosophy, Rawls' near-complete silence on his contemporary, Hayek, is striking, and even a bit puzzling. (Here's an exception to the point.) Even Nozick engages less with Hayek in Anarchy than one would expect today.
When Rawls wrote TJ he was probably among the most acute observers on mid-twentieth century economics. TJ reveals not just a student of utilitarianism and welfare-economics, but also a keen observer of game theory and probability theory. Rawls is a very sure guide to the significance of (let's call it) political economy. (Here's the index of TJ for T: Tinbergen, Tobin, Tullock, but also quite a few other non-philosophers.) In fact, he corresponded with leading economists. One might think that here lies the solution to my puzzle: after the formal-technocratic (quasi-Keynesian) turn in economics, Hayek had no role to play in economics. Even at Chicago, he ended up in Social Thought not in the Economics department.
But that can't be the full story not just because after Road to Serfdom Hayek had become a very famous public intellectual. By the 1960s Frank Knight and even Lionel Robbins were also no longer central to the technical developments of economics. In TJ Rawls is, in fact,seriously engaged with so-called "public choice" theory developed by Knight's students, who also were fairly marginal to mainstream economics of the period (although central to several of Rawls' questions). More important, Rawls' engagement with Buchanan & Tullock suggests that the silence on Hayek is not in the first instance a consequene of political disagreement.
One possible hypothesis is that there is no reason to really engage with Hayek because within philosophy views like Hayek's were then associated with Popper's views. This critical (1947) JPhil review of Popper's Open Society (by Harvard's Henry David Aiken, whose book on Hume I ought to read one day) comments extensively on the link between Popper and Hayek. So, we cannot rule this hypothesis out. But strikingly the review treats Hayek's views as utterly familiar to its readers. (461-2; Rawls knew Open Society.) The same is true of the passing identification of Popper and Hayek in this review by the legendary Morgenbesser (see p. 253). So, this suggests that, in fact, philosophers were once very aware of Hayek's ideas. Moreover, in his (1951) edition of the Mill/Taylor correspondence, Hayek had claimed (echoing Mill's own pronouncements) that J.S. Mill's views were much indebted to Harriet Taylor--something thought controversial among philosophers (see this review p. 551).
Now, one tentative hypothesis that I have to explain the puzzle is this: Hayek's status as a philosophical-thinker-to-be-reckoned-with was severely damaged by a rhetorically devestating review in (1952) The Journal of Philosophy by Ernest Nagel. The review of Hayek's The Counter-Revolution of Science was re-published in Nagel's Logic Without Metaphysics, which had a public audience and went through several editions in quick succession (hard to believe now). Nagel's main aim was to defend the technocratic turn in economics from its critics. In his review, Nagel's strategy is to politely ignore Hayek's views in "the history of ideas," which "are unusually informative and suggestive" and to focus on Hayek's "analysis." (362; I quote from the book.)
In fact, Nagel succeeds in showing that Hayek's "analysis" is full of elementary mistakes: Hayek confounds "the genesis of our ideas with their validity." (364) In a series of one-liners, Nagel ridicules Hayek's version of Verstehen: "Must one be a cannibal to understand cannibalism?" (365) And, perhaps, the two most devestating moves are, first, to point out in response to Hayek's contention that "the importation of the methods of the natural science into social ones leads to historicism and to unwarranted conceptions of social planning," that, "the charge of historicism cannot be justly leveled against Mill." (366-67) Subtext: Hayek as editor of Mill ought to have known better. [As an aside; I think one can read Mill in historicist fashion.] Second, Nagel argues that "theories of planned economy have been developed within the framework of marginal utility analysis--and therefore within the framework of methodological preconceptions that Mr. Hayek believes ar distinctive of the social sciences and so allegedly different from sciences." (367) Subtext: Hayek is so ideological that he even misrepresents his own science!
As regular readers know I am not inclined to underestimate Nagel's impact on the shape of the field (here and here; see also Jeff's piece on Hook). Some other time I will discuss the evidence that the economist David Levy provided me to show that Rawls had read Nagel's The Structure of Science, where Hayek's views are treated more politely but no less critically. Of course, Rawls would not have slavishly followed Nagel's views and evaluation of another thinker. But it is surely also not an entire coincidence that it was only long after Nagel's views about what counts as real philosophy had weakened their hold on the discipline such that philosophical admirers of Hayek had managed to force Rawlsians to engage with Hayek, and consequently to re-imagine their philosophical tradition.