Hayek and liberal pedagogy
Robert F. Garnett Jr.
Published online: 5 September 2008
Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008
Abstract The author employs Hayek’s concepts of knowledge and spontaneous order
to outline a learning-centered alternative to teacher- and student-centered pedagogies. In
a Hayekian classroom, learning (intellectual order) emerges from a polycentric web of
instruction, study, conversation, frustration, and discovery that continually elicits and
tests the knowledge claims of students and teachers. Yet, unlike Hayek’simpersonal
market process, the process of liberal learning is both personal and impersonal. To
capture this hybridity, the author supplements Hayek’s insights with those of Parker
Palmer, a liberal educator whose analysis of the classroom as a community of truth is
attuned to the interpersonal dimensions of knowing and learning.
JEL codes A2
In the early 1990s, Richard Cornuelle challenged classical liberals to “move out
decisively into the unknown and undeveloped” areas beyond commerce and the
state, where libertarian thinking had yet to offer compelling insights (1993, 11). In
particular, Cornuelle urged scholars to analyze the “human action inside organ-
izations” and to develop robust, decentralized alternatives to regimented, top-down
structures (ibid., 10; original emphasis).
One organizational nexus ripe for liberal rethinking is the college classroom. Despite
a venerable consensus on the importance of education for free societies and escalating
concern over the illiberality of college courses and curricula (Horowitz 2002;American
Rev Austrian Econ (2009) 22:315–331
A preliminary version of this paper was presented at a conference on “New Directions in the Study of
Emergent and Spontaneous Orders” sponsored by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation and the Fund
for the Study of Spontaneous Orders (FSSO), October 27–30, 2007.
R. F. Garnett Jr. (*)
Department of Economics, Texas Christian University, Box 298510, Fort Worth, TX 76129, USA