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Salerno: The Sociology of the Development of Austrian Economics

The recently-published Hoppe festschrift, Property, Freedom, and Society: Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe, contains a cornucopia of articles of interesting to Austrians and libertarians. A fascinating one is Chapter 14, Joe Salerno’s “The Sociology of the Development of Austrian Economics,” which is based on a speech presented at the Ludwig von Mises Institute’s First Annual Austrian Scholars Conference, Auburn University, Alabama, January 26–27, 1996, on a panel entitled “The Future of the Austrian School.”

From Salerno’s introductory note:

Although this paper was presented as a lecture in 1996, I have chosen to publish it in this volume in nearly its original manuscript form.[1] It was never previously published or posted electronically, but the paper achieved a limited circulation in manuscript form via copy and fax machines during the primitive days of the Internet. Despite its relatively restricted exposure, however, it generated a remarkably heated discussion in Austrian economics circles—much of it based on an inaccurate hearsay version of the paper—that lasted for a number of years.[2] So the first reason for publishing the paper now without major revision is to set the record straight regarding the actual claims and supporting arguments contained in it. A second reason for proceeding with belated publication of the manuscript is to acquiesce in and thus put a halt to the numerous importunities to publish that I have been subjected to over the years by colleagues and friends who were broadly aware of the prolonged controversy that swirled around the paper but were neither in the audience at its original presentation nor had the opportunity to read it subsequently. The third, and perhaps the most important, of my reasons for complying with the editors’ request to publish the paper is that, despite the fact that the situation in Austrian economics has greatly changed for the better since the paper was originally written and despite my dissatisfaction with its imperfections of style and tone, I think its substantive claims have stood up quite well and bear repeating. In particular, I believe the paper identifies counterproductive attitudes peculiar to proponents of a heterodox intellectual movement. Such attitudes are always liable to recur and must be vigilantly guarded against because they are likely to impede the movement’s further progress, if not threaten its very survival.

[1]Footnotes have been added and the title has been changed, but save for the correction of grammatical errors and the insertion of a few clarifying words here and there, the text has remained substantially unaltered.

[2] See, for example, David L. Prychitko, “Thoughts on Austrian Economics, ‘Austro-Punkism,’ and Libertarianism,” in idem, Markets, Planning and Democracy: Essays after the Collapse of Communism (Lyme, N.H.: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2002), p. 186, et pass.

Update: See Pete Boettke’s Setting the Record Straight on Austro-Punkism and the Sociology of the Austrian School of Economics; and David Prychitko’s My Take On “Austro-Punkism”; and Salerno’s Modern Austrian History: A Response to Pete.

[Cross-posted at Mises Blog]

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