Marriage and Markets in Hayek and Freud

I’ve got a new piece up at The New Yorker on a new biography of Friedrich Hayek.

I got a chance to range widely. From Hayek’s dalliance with the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet—

In November, 1977, on a still-sticky evening along Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, the Austrian economist and philosopher Friedrich Hayek boarded a flight bound for Chile and settled into his seat in first class. He was headed to the Valparaíso Business School, where he was scheduled to receive an honorary degree. Upon arrival in Santiago, the Nobel laureate was greeted at the airport by the dean of the business school, Carlos Cáceres. They drove toward the Pacific Coast, stopping for a bite to eat in the city of Casablanca, which had a restaurant known for its chicken stew. After their meal, they steered north to Viña del Mar, a seaside resort city in Valparaíso, where Hayek would take long walks on the beach, pausing now and then to study the stones in the sand.

To the casual observer, it seemed like a typical autumnal recessional, the sort of trip that illustrious scholars enjoy at the end of their careers. This one had a wintrier purpose. 

To Hayek’s relationship to Freud—

Friedrich August Edler von Hayek was born on May 8, 1899, in his parents’ apartment in Vienna. Two miles away, Sigmund Freud was putting the finishing touches on “The Interpretation of Dreams.” “Fin-de-siècle Vienna” invokes a century-straddling city whose violent metamorphosis, from the crown jewel of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the capital of the Austrian Republic, released into the world a distinctive swirl of psychoanalysis and logical positivism, fascism and atonal music. Though often omitted from the city’s syllabus, Hayek’s writings are among its lasting texts.

To what I think the smartest left readers of Hayek may have overlooked or under-emphasized—

Hayek’s is an economy in which a few can act, with all the power of nature, while the rest of us are acted upon. That domination is directly derived from his vision of the economy and his conception of freedom. It is a commitment obscured by Hayek’s readers, not only his right-wing defenders but also his left-wing critics. The latter tend to focus on other sources of domination or unfreedom: the cruel and carceral state that enforces Hayek’s neoliberal order; the remote global institutions that put that order beyond the reach of democratic citizens; the patriarchal family that offers tutorials in submission to the market; and the construction of the enterprising self that is so emblematic of contemporary capitalism.

Persuasive as these readings are, they don’t quite capture that moment of élite domination in the Hayekian market… 

To the relationship between Hayek’s theory of markets and the reality of his marriage—

The great trial of Hayek’s life was his twenty-four-year marriage to Helena (Hella) Fritsch, much of which he spent trying to get out of. Caldwell and Klausinger devote the last three chapters of their biography to the divorce—and for good reason, even if they can’t see it. In Hayek’s anguished bid to end his marriage, we find, just as Freud would have anticipated, the private pathology of the public philosophy, the knowledge problem in practice. That we should discover those pathologies in a marriage is less remarkable than it might seem. From the treatises of antiquity to the novels of Jane Austen to the economics of Thomas Piketty, writers of all sorts have understood the overlap between unions of soul and contracts of need.

You can read the whole article here.


  1. David Bloom June 29, 2024 at 10:59 pm | #

    Lovely piece! Hilarious, sad, and a surprisingly useful way of looking at Hayek’s thought, a metaphor that’s so much more than a metaphor but works formally.

  2. Reza Afshari June 30, 2024 at 10:50 am | #

    I would have loved to read the entire article. I do not want to subscribe to the magazine. Thanks. Reza Afshari

    • Glenn June 30, 2024 at 12:59 pm | #

      I read the entire article after finding the not-obvious New Yorker link, to read a single article.

  3. Neal S. July 1, 2024 at 12:51 pm | #

    I liked the article. But after reading it, I came away thinking his life resembled more like a story from another great Austrian artist Stefan Zweig. Indeed, after reading Zweig’s “The World of Yesterday,” I remarked to a friend a few years back that many of the influential Austrians of the 20th century appeared to be fixated on reassembling the 19th century Europe of their childhood! And that very much includes Hayek.

    Thanks for the review. I’ll definitely be buying the book!

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