biography: Hayek’s Introduction to Mises’ Memoirs

From F. A. Hayek’s “Introduction” to Ludwig von Mises’ Memoirs (pdf):

He became estranged from his cohorts and fellow students when he turned away from the advancing ideas of social policy. Twenty-five years later I could still feel the emotion and anger his seemingly sudden break had caused — when he had turned away from the dominating ideals of the academic youth of the first few years of the century — when his fellow student F.X. Weiss (the editor of the shorter writings of Böhm-Bawerk) told me about the event with unconcealed indignation, obviously in order to prevent me from a similar betrayal of “social” values and an all-too-great sympathy for an “outlived” liberalism …

Mises’s return to classical liberalism was not only a reaction to a dominating trend. He completely lacked the adaptability of his brilliant seminar fellow Josef Schumpeter, who always quickly accommodated current intellectual fashions, as well as Schumpeter’s joy in “épater le bourgeois” [shocking the middle classes]. In fact, it appeared to me as if these two most important representatives of the third generation of leading Austrian economists (one can hardly consider Schumpeter a member of the “Austrian School” in the narrower sense despite all mutual intellectual respect) each got on the other’s nerves ..

Because he never occupied a regular chair in his field in the German-speaking world, and had to devote most of his time to other-than-scholarly activities until his late fifties, Mises remained an outsider in academia. Other reasons contributed to isolating him in his position in public life and as a representative of a great social-philosophical project.

A Jewish intellectual who advocated socialist ideas had his respected place in the Vienna of the first third of this century, a place that was accorded to him as a matter of course. Likewise, the Jewish banker or businessman who (bad enough!) defended capitalism had his rights. But a Jewish intellectual who justified capitalism appeared to most as some sort of monstrosity, something unnatural, which could not be categorized and with which one did not know how to deal.

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