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Freedom in context: A review essay of The Dialectics of Liberty


The contributors to The Dialectics of Liberty demonstrate that libertarians can engage in a careful context-sensitive analysis of social behavior and political ideals. The book refutes the notion that libertarians must be insensitive to nuances in social environments and reliant on a woefully oversimplified conception of individuals, businesses, and governments. In this review, I first discuss the nature of dialectics, making explicit the mostly implicit definition running between the chapters of The Dialectics. I then summarize several of the chapters, synthesizing from them generalizable lessons about what Austrian economists and classical liberal scholars more generally can learn by being mindful of social context, synthesizing disparate ideas, and transcending dichotomies.

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  1. These are not formally rigorous arguments, but I trust the reader will allow them to stand in for ones.

  2. This hints at the conceptual origins of the thesis-antithesis-synthesis trope commonly associated with dialectics and sometimes erroneously attributed to Hegel despite more properly belonging to Fichte (2019, p. 22).

  3. This is likely to be an opportunity especially important for Austrians to exploit vigorously while many economists are distracted by the extremely un-dialectical methods of randomized control trials in developing economies.

  4. Many, thinking along the lines of James Buchanan and Richard Wagner in Democracy in Deficit (1977), might be more inclined to put demand management in the primary interventions category.


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Correspondence to Alexander W. Craig.

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Craig, A.W. Freedom in context: A review essay of The Dialectics of Liberty. Rev Austrian Econ (2022).

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  • Dialectics
  • libertarianism
  • methodology
  • political philosophy

JEL classification

  • A12
  • B4
  • B53
  • Y3
  • Z13