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Richard T. Allen


A Study of the Political Thought of L. von Mises, K. Popper, F.A. Hayek and M. Polanyi,
with an Appendix on A. Kolnai



Chapter 12

Two Models of a Free Society

1. The Great Society as Cosmos and not Taxis

No inclusive society or body politic can entirely be based upon or structured by Contract, nor can a free society be an unqualifiedly Open one. But it does not therefore follow that the only alternative is a `closed' and `tribal' one, whether of the old order or of modern totalitarianism. The stark choice that Popper offers us, like that of the Rationalist one between `dogmatism' and `an open mind', needs to be reconsidered. With that in mind, we shall now consider Hayek's account of the Great Society and his important distinction between a cosmos and a taxis.

Especially in Vol. II of Law, Liberty and Legislation, Hayek contrasts the `Great Society', his elaboration of Popper's Open Society, with previous forms of human society, in order to show how demands for `social justice' would entail a return to those earlier forms and with them a loss of the peace, freedom and prosperity that the Great Society has brought. It is not his argument against social justice which concerns us, and which I shall take for granted, but his contrast between the Great Society and other, smaller, more intimate, and more end-orientated forms of community. I shall now summarise the main points of that contrast without specific references to the text.

Hayek employs a fundamental distinction between a cosmos, or what Polanyi calls a `spontaneous order', and a taxis, or what Polanyi calls a `corporate order'. The former is a product of human action but not of human design. It comes into being as a result of the mutually adjusting actions of individuals, groups and organisations. It is the pattern of relationships to which those actions give rise. The latter is a designed arrangement or organisation. The specific threats to freedom which concern Hayek are those which assume that all social groupings and interactions are, or should be, deliberately designed and controlled, and thus come into the category of taxis. In particular, the demand for `social justice' would require deliberate organisation of those activities to which it is to be applied. The result would be a command society, like the one factory of which Lenin spoke, wherein the actions of individuals would be organised to fit a total plan conceived by a central authority and with a central scheme of awards and payments according to a scale of `needs' or `merits'. Hayek thinks that the desire for `social justice' is, in effect, an atavistic one for a return to the state of a tribe of hunters under a chief who organised their activities and distributed the game which they had collectively caught. In such a band, and in later times, individuals met in face-to-face relationships and knew each other personally. They were united by working for common goals, by feelings of solidarity, and by specific obligations to each other. They shared a common way of life and to a large extend a common or communal life. Other examples would be the households of a farming family, with any labourers or servants that it might employ, or of a master craftsman with his family, journeymen, apprentices and servants. Without exactly saying so, Hayek at times gives the impression that face-to-face relationships, feelings of solidarity and specific obligations are inimicable to the Great Society and thus to freedom [1].

In contrast to taxes or organisations such as these, is the Great Society, an elaboration of Popper's Open Society, which is not a closed or determinate group at all. Instead it is a network of relationships among an indeterminate and open number of people who, in this respect at least, do not constitute an `us' in distinction from a `them'. Those relationships are, as Popper said, `abstract', and are so in a double sense: they are often, and increasingly so today, formed among people who either do not meet at all, such as a manufacturer and the ultimate purchasers of his products, or only functionally and not personally, as when a shopper takes his purchases to the check-out in a supermarket' and they are governed by abstract and general rules and not by specific and personal obligations, bonds and loyalties [2]. I hand ?0 to this man, not because he is my impoverished cousin or my liege lord to whom I owe a yearly tribute, but because I have bought ?0's worth of goods or services from him. I may know him personally or he may be a total stranger. Such facts are irrelevant. All that matters is the very general duty of buyer to pay seller, and these abstract relationships in which we now stand. Such relationships can be formed with anyone else irrespective of the groups we individually belong to. Whereas tribal society is based on the notion of kinship, cannot think of relationships and obligations in any other terms than of common descent, and consequently uses the legal fiction of adoption in order to accommodate those who are not related into the family, band, clan or tribe [3], the Great Society is not based on them at all but solely upon general rules that apply to everyone with whom one has some dealings. It follows that the Great Society has no inherent limits. It can and does reach across all groups, not only in its most common and frequent form of economic transactions, but in every way in which individuals can deal with each other, as fellow scientists for example, whether or not they belong to the same or any international scientific association. The Great Society is essentially open in membership and a cosmos without any element of taxis. All people in the world can in principle, and with modern communications can in fact, be brought into it. No world government is necessary for instituting it. All that matters and all that is requisite for joining it, is willingness to treat everyone else according to the abstract rules of justice and to abide by them oneself.

The Great Society is the sphere of freedom. Reversion to more concrete bonds and obligations, certainly to any great extent, would, in Hayek's view, return us to goal-orientated organisations and thus to hierarchies of command and obedience. Nostalgic longings for more face-to-face relationships, solidarity, and working together for common purposes, threaten the freedom, peace and prosperity achieved in the modern world. The Great Society requires that we treat all alike and thus that legally enforceable duties are those which can be fulfilled towards anyone. Therefore obligations of specific help, which are possible on a small scale to a determinate number of persons whom one knows personally, are not possible towards all. The extension of such duties to more and more persons requires a corresponding contraction of their content. For example (one of my own), in a tribal society which cannot store food even when there is a surplus, individuals invest in building up relationships of mutual obligation, so that when food is short they have a wider spread of persons to approach who are bound to help them if they can [4]. Again (also my own example) in a more differentiated society, there is an obligation on those who prosper to help at least some of their relations who are less fortunate. Nowadays that obligation clashes with the impartiality required in public services. A man can do what he likes in his own business, and can appoint a less able cousin instead of a more competent stranger, though in the long run such a policy will ruin his business. But in public service that practice is nepotism, and benefits the family at the expense of the public. It can take a long time for traditions of impartiality to become established, and they can easily become overthrown by patronage and the `spoils system', where party associates rather than kinsmen are preferred over more suitable candidates.

Hayek thus presents us with two models of society: that which is a taxis, an organisation of working together for a common end, of command and obedience, of distributed rewards for perceived merits or needs or contributions, of felt solidarity in aiming at the common end, and of specific obligations to known individuals' and that which is a cosmos, of persons in largely abstract or impersonal relationships, and bound mostly or only to observe the negative rules of justice in dealing with everyone else.

I have already suggested that band societies are not, and presumably were not, quite as Hayek describes them [5]. That is an incidental point. What matters are the answers to two questions:

1. How are we to understand bodies politic and especially those of the modern world, and how do they fit into or lie outside the distinction between cosmos and taxis?

2. What combination of cosmos and taxis is necessary for the existence and preservation of freedom? In relation to the latter, Hayek states that a government is an organisation, a taxis, which is compatible with the Great Society when its coercive functions are limited to maintaining the general rules needed for it, and do not include its service functions, whereby it acts like other organisations in managing the resources given to it (LLL I, pp. 47-8). Now while it is clear that there would be little freedom in a society that was organised as a taxis, which is the objective of totalitarian systems, it may yet be the case that a free society is compatible with and may indeed require some elements of a taxis over and above that of its government functioning in the way that Hayek mentions. Let us therefore consider some human arrangements that are not full-blooded taxes yet clearly are not wholly cosmoi.

2. Between Cosmos and Taxis

Our first example is one of a combination of taxis and cosmos: viz. a market, which has been deliberately instituted, such as the futures market established a few years ago in London. As instituted it is a taxis. Of course, the rules explicitly laid down for it could not have been invented de novo. They, and the very ideas of a market and trading in futures, were taken from practices which had evolved spontaneously. But the point is that, on the one hand, the market in question was deliberately established and hence in that respect is a taxis, while, on the other, the pattern of prices prevailing in it at any moment is a spontaneous and undesigned one, and hence a cosmos. Hayek allows that the spontaneous order which is the result is not the same as the spontaneous or non-spontaneous origin of the rule on which it rests (LLL I, p. 46).

Our second set of examples are of taxes which operate without structures of command or collective decision, at least for much of the time. Consider a small group of people who work as a group to realise a given goal. As such, they form a taxis. They deliberately constitute the group and set themselves, or have set for them, the specific goal which they seek to realise. But it is possible for them to achieve their object without further commands or collective decisions but, instead, by spontaneous mutual adjustments. The conditions for this are the small size of the group and the expertise of its members which enables them to work in a familiar and perhaps routine manner. Hayek himself gives an example of such a group (the location of which I have forgotten and cannot retrace): a group of lionesses hunting. Indeed, their hunting itself appears to be initiated by a series of spontaneous adjustments of individual stirrings and movements. Two human examples are a quartet contrasted with an orchestra, and a group of specialist workmen each of whom performs his part of a co-operative task but without anyone acting as foreman. Even within larger organisations which have hierarchies of command or management, a lot of the work can be done by routine without definite direction. The co-operative achievement of a common goal does not always require a structure of command or direction, and, when it does, it may not require it at every point, as Hayek acknowledges even in the case of a hunting band (LLL I, p. 47).

Let us now consider some examples of corporate associations which are organisations in that sense or to that extent, but which are not primarily orientated to the achievement of specific goals. Firstly, a household where, like the group of specialist workmen, most of the members perform their own routine tasks and spontaneously adjust themselves to each other without much in the way of one person directing them. It is like an organisation, a taxis, in being, not just a group of persons, but a definite unit, which at times will act as one. Yet it is not constituted to achieve specific goals, although it sets itself ones from time to time, but rather to sustain a shared way of life. Other organisations or bodies which have general purposes rather than specific goals are clubs and societies which promote an interest common to their members, for example, learned societies, and sports and social clubs. They have formal structures of officers; they organise specific events; they may set themselves specific goals. But, for the most part, they have only general purposes and are not goal-orientated. Although they are defined and distinguished by their purposes, they are some distance from Oakeshott's paradigms of `enterprise associations', such as business companies, hospitals and schools [6]. Between the two are more diffuse yet still definitely goal-orientated associations like the Red Cross.

Finally, we come to Polanyi's model of a free society, the republic of science (KB Chap.4). This is like, or rather is, a specific segment of the Great Society. It is not a taxis, although it includes scientific societies and institutes. Only in totalitarian states are all scientists conscripted into specific organisations which in turn are organised into one body, just as workers are organised into trades-unions and those into one bloc. It has no over-all organisational structure. Indeed, some of its members, amateurs or free-lances, may not be members of any relevant association or institute, though today that is ever less likely but is still possible with other learned republics such as that of historians. And the republic of science straddles all societies, except those closed off from the Great Society. Hence it so far it is a cosmos. Indeed, it was Polanyi's conviction that Marxist and Utilitarian attempts to organise it, to make it into a taxis, aimed at human welfare, of taxes aimed at specific goals of research to promote that end, would destroy it. Nevertheless it has some features of a taxis. It is not goal-orientated but it is defined by a shared but general purpose, that of the cultivation of science. Its members are members only as they are recognised as sharing that aim and competent to pursue it. A newcomer has to be accepted and may be rejected. Indeed, a member may be expelled and declared not to be a scientist, but a crank, fraud or charlatan, if he transgresses the professional standards upheld by the fraternity of scientists.

Our review of these examples suggests that there are several possibilities between a pure case of cosmos, such as the Great Society, and a taxiswhich aims at the realisation of specific goals and has a structure of command or central decision to co-ordinate the actions of its members in order to achieve its goals. Freedom is not possible in an inclusive society modelled upon the latter. The question for us is just what elements and proportions of cosmosand taxisit requires.

3. From the Republic of Science to the Society of Explorers

We shall continue with Polanyi's model of the republic of science. He does not present it as an exact and complete model for society at large but only in certain of its constituents (KB p. 49): viz. (a) the necessity of freedom and the impossibility of central direction in science and society at large; (b) the need for an authority which is mutual and traditional; and (c) the combination of orthodoxy and dissent in a dynamic orthodoxy which acknowledges the reality and value of truth to which it dedicates itself. Liberty for Polanyi is primarily the liberty for self-dedication and not for doing as we please. Only the former is morally defensible.

We have already looked at the first point of comparison in Chapter 10. It is the second and third that concern us now. Someone is accepted as a scientist only as he grasps and conforms to the professional standards of science by which they judge the scientific importance of problems and their likely solutions. These standards have a traditional authority. For no one mind can hope to encompass, let alone be competent to judge, more than a small fraction of the body of scientific work. But each specialist is engaged in mutual confirmation and criticism with others both in his own field and in neighbouring ones with which it overlaps. Consequently there is a network of mutual criticism which maintains scientific standards across the whole field from astronomy to medicine. In entering the republic of science each newcomer submits himself to and endorses the vast range of judgments of scientific merit made throughout the sciences, although he knows almost nothing of their subject-matter. That means that they are transmitted by tradition. Likewise, Polanyi argued earlier, the unspecifiable art of scientific research is learned by a system of apprenticeship and hence by living tradition (PK p. 53).

Most of these standards---those of initial plausibility, accuracy, systematic importance, and the intrinsic interest of the subject-matter---tend towards conformity with the prevailing consensus or body of scientific theory. But another, that of originality, encourages dissent and revision. `The professional standards of science must impose a framework of discipline and at the same time encourage rebellion against it' (KB p. 54). Only by requiring at least some degree of compatibility with current conceptions about the universe can the scientific community prevent dispersal of its efforts and the chasing of every hare, and maintain its standards of scientific procedure. In `The Growth of Science in Society' (KB Chap. 5) Polanyi illustrates and enlarges upon this necessary exclusion of implausible conjectures and theories with reference to the Velikovsky affair which scandalised some people who took scientists' professions of open-mindedness at face value. Of course, like everything else, it can go wrong and thus exclude theories which are later vindicated, such as Polanyi's own theory of adsorption (KB Chap. 6). It is here that Polanyi breaks entirely with the Positivist separation of `the context of justification' from `the context of discovery'. Science would soon get nowhere if it were to proceed by the random generation of hypotheses which were then tested. On the contrary, scientists must assess the initial plausibility of any purported discovery or theory, the likelihood of its being true [7]. They are not open minded but employ largely tacit principles of selection and evaluation. But, precisely because science does deal with the real world and aims at a true body of theory about it, the prevailing body of theory is open to revision. Hence the recruit to the fraternity of scientists is taught both to accept the current body of theory as a true account of the universe, and that he can make its own contacts with it which may necessitate, revision, even radical revision, of that body of theory.

In this way Polanyi seeks to resolve the conflict between Radicalism as typified by Tom Paine and Traditionalism as expounded by Burke. He distinguishes three sorts of society: static ones (i.e. ones which do not aim to change themselves though in fact they may change), dynamic and revolutionary ones, which aim at a complete and sudden renewal of themselves and hence are totalitarian, and dynamic and reformist ones, which allow thought freely to develop and reform society (PK pp. 213-4). The second and third define the modern age. In some ways we are reminded of Popper's division between closed tribal societies and modern open ones. But Polanyi acknowledges, on the one hand, that free societies today share their dynamism with revolutionary and totalitarian ones, and, on the other, that they also share with static societies a belief in the power and worth of thought. Modern totalitarian movements are not reversions to `tribal' societies, even when, we may add, full allowance is given to the role of Volkisch elements within and around the Nazi movement. For, what a sceptical Rationalism cannot consistently recognise, is the worth and power of thought, and, in particular, that pre-modern societies also held that belief. It assumes that before the Enlightenment were the Dark Ages. On the contrary, says Polanyi, static societies respected religion, morality, law and all the arts in their own right, and, though they confined their pursuit each within a particular orthodoxy, the rulers accepted those orthodoxies for their own guidance. Likewise, modern free societies recognise the power and worth of truth, or deny it at their own peril. For the denial of the power and worth of truth leads, not to a restrained, tolerant Liberalism, but to totalitarianisms which proclaim their denials of truth and all other ideals and obligations. What a free society therefore requires is what is found in the republic of science: a firm commitment to truth and other transcendent ideals; their embodiment in a living and authoritative tradition; and the progressive adaptation and enlargement of that tradition in the light of those ideals.

The difference between static and free societies lies in what Polanyi had distinguished yet earlier as Specific and General Authority (SFS pp. 57-9). The former imposes specific conclusions from a central position, whereas the latter lays down only general presuppositions and leaves their interpretation and application to the individual judgment of the members of the community.

The republic of science is a `society of explorers'. So too is a free society. It explores self-improvement in every respect through individual initiatives guided by traditional authority and creative self-renewal. In other spheres there is often not the same degree of basic consensus, so that rival schools, as in art, are more divided from each other and last for longer. Or, as in art again, there is not the same systematic coherence---after all, non-representational works are not about anything, and even literary ones can be be imaginary worlds rather than the one real, and the coherence that matters is that within each one. Yet again, as in religion (in Polanyi's time!) but not in theology, there may be not be a cult of innovation. Nevertheless, the activities of a free society will take the same general form, and the public at large will be guided by authoritative specialists, though sometimes rival ones, in each sphere (PK pp. 220-2).

Polanyi claims that in these ways the notion of a free society aiming at its own self-improvement transcends the conflict between Paine and Burke.

It rejects Paine's demand for the absolute self-determination of each generation, but does so for the sake of its own ideal of unlimited human and social improvement. It accepts Burke's thesis that freedom must be rooted in tradition, but transposes it into a system cultivating radical progress. It rejects the dream of a society in which all will labour for a common purpose, determined by the will of the people. For in the pursuit of excellence it offers no part to the popular will and accepts instead a condition of society in which the public interest is known only fragmentarily and is left to be achieved as the outcome of individual initiatives aiming at fragmentary problems. Viewed through the eyes of socialism, this ideal of a free society is conservative and fragmented, and hence adrift, irresponsible, selfish, apparently chaotic. A free society conceived as a society of explorers is open to these charges, in the sense that they do refer to characteristic features of it. But if we recognise that these features are indispensable to the pursuit of social self-improvement, we may be prepared to accept them as perhaps less attractive aspects of a noble enterprise (KB p. 71) [8].

Although in other ways there may be defects in the analogy between the republic of science and the republic at large, Polanyi is right in drawing two parallels between them: that the authority of both is and must be traditional or prescriptive, and that both transcend the generations. For the individual is respectively born into or voluntarily enters into a network of obligations and commitments which he has not established, only parts of which are explicitly known by him, and the ramifications or consequences of which he cannot anticipate. And the purposes of neither cannot be achieved by one person nor one generation.

The contradiction in Contract theory manifests itself also in these respects. Polanyi rejected Paine's assertion of the right of each generation to reorder society for itself. Paine asserted that right against Burke's citation of the statements of Parliament in and after the Declaration of Right of 1688, that it bound the nation and its heirs and successors for ever. On the contrary urged Paine:

Every age and generation must be as free to act for itself, in all cases, as the ages and generation which preceded it. The vacuity and presumption of governing beyond the grave is the most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies [9].

But the Social Contract itself, which Paine like Locke takes to be an historical event, has no validity today unless those who made it had the power to bind their heirs and successors, and that entails that there are non-contractual obligations and that our political obligations fall into that category. If, as Paine asserted, every generation is as free to act as the first, then every individual has a right not to contract, not to associate, not to be obliged by what some other group of individuals---in Paris or Philadelphia or wherever---happen to agree among themselves.

In every sphere of society, as well as society at large, the authority of tradition and an authority based on tradition are needed to preserve and transmit accumulated achievements which cannot be known by any single mind nor be known wholly explicitly. No part of human life can begin again from a clean slate. A famous passage in Burke's Reflections in effect sums up Polanyi's argument:

Society is indeed a contract. Subordinate contracts for objects of mere occasional interest may be dissolved at pleasure---but the state ought not to be considered as nothing better than a partnership agreement in a trade of pepper and coffee, calico or tobacco, or some other such low concern, to be taken up for a little temporary interest, and to be dissolved by the fancy of the parties. It is to be looked on with other reverence; because it is not a partnership in things subservient only to the gross animal existence of a temporary and perishable nature. It is a partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue, and in all perfection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born [10].

Burke, like Polanyi, locates the purposes of society, not in safeguarding the right to do as we please, but in the cultivation of human nature or self-improvement [11]. This entails that society at large, as Burke also said, `extends in time as well as in numbers and in space' [12]. Just as the individual cannot simply please himself, so too the present generation collectively cannot simply please itself. It has a heritage to maintain, to improve and to pass on.

Polanyi, therefore, does not so much transcend the conflict between Burke and Paine, as endorse Burke's side of it. We have found substantially the same ideas of liberty and society in Polanyi and Burke, and the same conclusions drawn as to the importance of continuity, tradition and authority. Polanyi does however speak of `radical progress' which is not quite in Burke's spirit. Perhaps this is a result of his analogy with the specific activity of science. In other spheres of life, and in society as a whole, progress may consist more in closer approximation to existing standards rather than the setting of new ones. Science may be a field which offers satisfaction to one side of human nature, and to those in whom it is more prominent, viz. the desire to go out into the unknown, to explore and to adventure. Yet there is another side, that of continuity and security, of a home to return to. A society in which all is changing, even though the changes were additions and improvements, would be as distorted as one which continually rehearsed an unchanging routine.

We shall now continue with the subject of the purposes of a free society. Whereas the `negative' liberty of doing as we please, sets society as a whole, and the government as its organ, only a formal purpose, of protecting that liberty, and not any substantive one, and that for many Liberals is an essential constituent of its liberty, the `positive' liberty of self-dedication and self-improvement makes society a partnership in positive purposes. These are principally of a general sort rather than specific goals. The role of government is still principally that of protecting them and allowing individuals, groups, institutions and classes to cultivate them. But, because they are positive although very general purposes, to protect them may require or permit more definite action on the part of government. For example, the question of censorship is not automatically closed. Since there is no moral case for doing as we please, there is none for reading or watching as we please. It is matter of judgment in the concrete case, and not of a principle turned into a rigid policy, as to whether more evil is done by allowing or banning certain types of publications, plays, films and entertainments. Moreover, if a free society has certain purposes, then it is an open question, and again a matter of judgment in the concrete case, as to whether or not, and if so, as to how far and in what ways, the government may positively promote those purposes, for example, by public subsidies to institutions of education and research or even by the establishment of its own. After all, Hayek has argued for just that.

The whole of society has a heritage to maintain, to improve if it can, and to pass on. This applies to the role of government. It also applies within every special sphere of society, such as religion, learning, the arts, agriculture and industry. This imposes special obligations upon those who are in positions of responsibility within those spheres of society. It also requires the general support of society at large. Natural science, for example, requires not only a body of specialists for its cultivation but also a general public that appreciates their work and interest, and that for its own inherent value.

No important discovery can be made in science by anyone who does not believe that science is important in itself, and likewise no society which has no sense for scientific values can cultivate science successfully. The same applies to all cultural life: a society may be said to have a cultural life only to the extent to which it respects cultural excellence (PK p. 220).

Polanyi adds that this appreciation will be mostly second-hand. What anyone acknowledges as important achievements in any field will mostly depend upon the opinions of others, for he will often lack the time, the training or the aptitude to study them himself [13]. Although the leaders of opinion may themselves be divided into rival schools or factions, there is some degree of underlying consensus which credits most of their judgments with some validity. That in turn implies the divergent standards have descended from a common stock of values and beliefs.

This belief in an autonomous process of coherent thought is (as in science) the fundamental condition for the social cultivation of thought, guided by its own standards and prompted by its own passions (PK p. 222).

It was against Reductionist denials of the reality and autonomy of thought that Polanyi proceeded to argue later in Personal Knowledge and subsequent works [14]. In the immediate context he pointed out that in a free society government and legislation follow public opinion, which in turn largely follows sets of leaders of opinion, not just because the people have decided, but because the people are deemed competent to decide rightly. This formation of policy by public opinion also presupposes that, despite initial conflicts, a substantial consensus can be obtained after the event for most reforms, as has happened in Britain from around 1830. If this is not possible, if large bodies of opinion continue to oppose and repudiate what has been done, then a nation is in a state of civil war and does not freely make its own law but is governed by a tyrannical majority. (Compare the history of France from 1789 to de Gaulle's establishment of the Fifth Republic and final defeat of the O.A.S.) `In an ideal free society civic life would be continuously improved solely by the cultivation of moral principles' (PK p. 224).

It follows that a free society is, as it were, a Society of societies, a Society for the Promotion of Self-Improvement, which can achieve its ends mostly by protecting and supporting the efforts and initiatives of individuals and other associations. That is, it does have its definite purposes but these are principally general aims rather than specific goals. It lies between the Great Society, which both includes it and pervades it, and a specific organisation aiming at specific goals.

Our reflections upon the Great Society and the Republic of Science have led us to conclude that, although a free society cannot be a taxisrather than a cosmos, yet it is one orientated to certain general aims and committed to certain distinctive beliefs. It is also one founded on tradition and traditional authority. It may be open to many things, but, to remain free, it may have to close itself firmly against others which threaten its character and existence. We have therefore given part of an answer to the second of the two questions posed at the end of 1 above, and still have to answer the first. To that we shall turn in the next chapter, wherein we shall add to our answer to the second.



1. See also Popper: the group-spirit of tribalism is not entirely lost today, nor, it seems, is wholly malign (OS I, p. 316 n. 68).

2. Compare Polanyi (SMS p. 25): Society deals with the free person impersonally as a carrier of certain qualities. `Fairness' is dealing on the basis of a particular principle and not being influenced by extraneous circumstances.

3. See Sir Henry Maine, 1906, pp. 134-9, and M. Gluckman's comment (1965, p. 85) on apparent counter-examples.

4. See Gluckman, op. cit. p. 13.

5. Chap. 9 n.2.

6. On Human Conduct, pp. 114, 119.

7. Popper's philosophy of science, still based on a Rationalist scepticism, never allows any theory to be true, and perpetuates the Positivist dichotomy of discovery and justification by transposing it into that of conjecture and refutation.

8. See also PK pp. 216-22, and TD Chap. 3.

9. Rights of Man I, in Commonsense . . ., pp. 76-7. The passage to which Paine objected is in the Reflections, V, p. 62.

10. Reflections V, pp. 193-4. See also an earlier passage:

If the present generation `unmindful of what they have received from their ancestors, or of what is due to their posterity, should act as they were the entire masters.....[then] By this unprincipled facility of changing the state as often, and as much, and in as many ways, as there are floating fancies or factions, the whole chain and continuity of the commonwealth would be broken. No one generation should link with the other. Men would become little better than the flies of a summer.....Personal self-sufficiency and arrogance (the certain attendance upon all those who have never experienced a wisdom greater than their own) would usurp the tribunal [left vacant by law]....No principles would be early worked into the habits.....Barbarism with regard to science and literature, unskillfulness with regard to arts and manufactures, would infallibly succeed to the want of a steady education and settled principle' and the commonwealth itself, in a few generations, crumble away, be dispensed into the dust and powder of individuality, and at length be dispersed to all the winds of heaven' (pp. 181-3).

Burke also explicitly repudiated the assumption that all obligations can be based upon voluntary agreement:

We have obligations to mankind at large, which are not in consequence of any special voluntary pact. They arise from the relation of man to man, and the relation of man to God, which relations are not matter of choice. On the contrary the force of all the pacts which we enter into with any particular person, or number of persons amongst mankind, depends upon those prior obligations. In some cases the subordinate relations are voluntary, but the duties are all compulsive. When we marry, the choice is voluntary, but the duties are not matter of choice. they are dictated by the nature of the situation. Dark and inscrutable are the ways by which we come into the world. The instincts which give rise to this mysterious process of nature are not of our making. But out of physical causes unknown to us, perhaps unknowable, arise moral duties, which, as we are perfectly well able to comprehend, we are bound indispensably to perform. Parents may not be consenting to their moral relations, but consenting or not, they are bound to a long train of duties towards those with whom they have never made a convention of any sort. Children are not consenting to their relation, but their relation, without their mutual consent, binds them to its duties (An Appeal from the Old Whigs to the New VI, pp. 201-2).

11. See also Reflections V, p. 186: `He who gave our nature to be perfected by our virtue willed also the necessary means of its perfection. He willed therefore the state. He willed its connection with the source and original archetype of all perfection'.

12. Again, I would like to quote the whole passage:

A nation is not an idea only of local extent, and individual momentary aggregation; but it is an idea of a continuity, which extends in time as well as in numbers and in space. And this is a choice not of one day, or one set of people, not a tumultuary and giddy choice; it is a deliberate election of ages and of generations; it is a constitution made by what is ten thousand times better than choice, it is made by the peculiar circumstances, occasions, tempers, dispositions, and moral, civil, and social habitudes of the people, which disclose themselves only in a long space of time. Nor is prescription of government formed upon blind, unmeaning prejudices---for man is a most unwise and a most wise being. The individual is foolish; the multitude, for the moment is foolish, when they act without deliberation; but the species is wise, and, when time is given to it, as a species it always acts right. (Speech on Reform of Representation, X, pp. 96-7).

13. It is here that dangerous gaps can open up between the leaders of opinion within a specific sphere and the opinions or tastes of the general public. In theology, this takes the form of an Hegelian Gnosticism in which `popular Christianity', with its beliefs in the reality of God and the historicity of the Incarnation, Atonement and Resurrection, is reinterpreted in a non-ontological and non-historical manner (a practice which those who undertake it do not find morally incompatible with retaining the ecclesiastical and academic positions and income which their former subscriptions to orthodoxy have enabled them to achieve). In the visual arts, it takes the form of spending public money upon, and awarding prizes to, objects which the general public derides as not being art at all.

14. Popper rightly sees Relativism as the principal intellectual malady of the age (OS II, p. 369). But as we saw in Chap. 7 2, his critical dualism of facts and decisions not only cannot answer it but reinforces it.



F.A. Hayek

 CL The Constitution of Liberty
LLL Law, Liberty and Legislation, 3 Vols.

M. Polanyi

KB Knowing and Being
LL The Logic of Liberty
PK Personal Knowledge
SFS Science, Faith and Society
SMS The Struggle of Man in Society
(unpublished: Box 26, Folder 2;
Library of the University of Chicago)

TD The Tacit Dimension
K. Popper

 OS The Open Society and Its Enemies, 2 Vols 


Chapter 13: The Obligations of a Free Society
Chapter 14: The Emotional Bonds of Society Bibliography
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Polanyiana Volume 5, Number 1, 1996, pp. 7-46



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