Hayek’s Book List

The books that influenced Friedrich Hayek:

1.   (tie)  Carl Menger’s Principles of Economics.   HTML version here.  PDF version here.

1.  (tie)   Carl Menger’s Investigation into the Method of the Social Sciences.  PDF version here.

2.   Ernst Mach, The Analysis of Sensations.  Google Books version here.

3.  Walther Rathenau’s The New Society.  Google Books version here.

4.  Friedrich von Wieser, Natural Value.  Google Books version here.

5.  Ludwig von Mises, The Theory of Money and Credit.  HTML version here.  PDF version here.  Epub version here.

6.  Knut Wicksell, Interest and Prices.  Google Books version here.

7.  Ludwig von Mises, Socialism.  HTML version here.  PDF version here.  Epub version here.

8.   R. S. Peters, The Concept of Motivation.  Google Books version here.

9.  Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, Positive Theory of Capital.   HTML version here.  Google Books version here.

10.  Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.  Project Gutenberg editions.

11.  Alexis de Tocqueville, Complete Works and Democracy in America.  Google Books version of D in A here.

12.  Lord Acton, The History of Freedom and Lectures on Modern History.  Google Books version of H of F here.

13.  Ludwig von Mises, Interventionism. HTML version here.  PDF version here.

14.  Frank Knight, Risk, Uncertainty & Profit.  Google Books version here.

15.  Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery.

16.  Hugo de Vries,  Mutation Theory and Species and Varieties.     Epub version of MT here.    Epub version of S & V here.

17.  Adam Ferguson, An Essay on the History of Civil Society.  HTML version here.  Google Books version here.

18.  Oskar Lange & F. M. Taylor, On the Economic Theory of Socialism.

19.  John Maynard Keynes, Treatise on Money.

20.  G. de Ruggiero, The History of European Liberalism.

21.  Joseph Schumpeter, The Nature and Essence of Theoretical Economics.

I’ll revise and add more later.  Over time, I’ll also post individually on each book, explaining its place in this list of books that influenced F. A. Hayek.

Your own suggestions and criticism would be appreciated — add your own contributions in the comments section.

UPDATE:  Peter Boettke suggests adding Bertalanffy’s General Systems Theory, Olson’s Logic of Collective Action, and Rawl’s essays which eventually led to A Theory of Justice.

Here are a few more that should be on the list:

– A. V. Dicey, Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution.  HTML version here.

– David Hume, Essays and A Treatise on Human Nature.

– Edmund Burke, Works Vol. 1 & 2.

– Johann von Goethe, Faust and The Sorrows of Young Werther.

– Ludwig Feuerbach, Works.  HTML editions here.

What else?

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32 Responses to Hayek’s Book List

  1. Daniel Kuehn says:

    Out of curiosity – was this derived to any extent on a statement by Hayek himself. In other words, had someone asked him “who influenced you”. Or is this based on your reading of Hayek and familiarity with his citations. Just curious.

  2. Greg Ransom says:

    Daniel — it’s based on Hayek’s own accounts (see for example the UCLA Oral History interviews), my reading of Hayek’s works, my research in the Hayek archives, and my extensive knowledge of the secondary literature on Hayek.

  3. Adam says:

    Where did you get Wittgenstein from? I ask this in the hope I can somehow prove you wrong on that one :D

  4. Greg Ransom says:

    Hayek was “second cousin” to Wittgenstein and his mother was friends with Wittgenstein’s sister — via the chance of this familiarity Hayek became one of the first to read Wittgenstein’s _Tractatus_. You’ll find Hayek conversant in the language and picture of the new logic pioneered by Frege and Wittgenstein in many of his essays on economics. I’ll add more on this in a post on down the road.

  5. Classical liberal says:

    Some books dealing with law and spontaneous order:

    David Hume. I coulnd’t specify a single book, but he was the most quoted author in Hayek’s big works (as Alan Ebenstein acknowledges in his biography).

    Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations. I can’t believe it’s not in the list. You could add The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

    Albert V. Dicey, Lectures on the Relation between Law and Public Opinion during the Nineteenth Century. Also his Introduction to the Studiy of the Law of the Constitution.

    Henry Sumner Maine. This ninteenth century british jurist developed a hayekian-like evolutionist theory of law. Hayek mentions him in LLL. I can’t recall any single relevant book by him, though.

    Hans Kelsen, The Pure Theory of Law. Hayek critizised him severely, as his law theory – hardcore positivism – is something like the opposite of hayekian evolutionism (which is also opposed to rationalist nature law doctrines).

    John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. Hayek wrote The Constitution of Liberty, in his own words, to conmemorate Mill’s work, which had been published a century before.

    Bruno Leoni, The Freedom and the Law. Although it’s quoted just once or twice in LLL, some people say that Hayek’s work on law was heavily influenced by Leoni, who had already built something like an evolutionist law theory.

    Herbert Spencer. I can’t remember any concrete work, but Hayek draw from him some things, which led – and, amazingly, still leads -some people to consider him a social-darwinist.

    Michael Polanyi’s The Logic of Liberty. Probably Personal Knowledge, aswell.

    John Locke’s Second Treatise on Civil Government.

    Montesquieu, Spirit of the Laws.

    Don’t forget The Open Society and its Enemies, by Karl Popper. Anyway, in my opinion, Logik der Forschung was by far more important to Hayek’s thought (it should be in the top 5 if we ranked all of these books by how much Hayek draw from them).

    If I’m not mistaken, Hayek says somewhere (Hayek on Hayek?) that he decided to study economics during the war because he had read some book about the topic by some german or austrian author. Can you remember which one?

  6. Classical liberal says:

    About Wittgenstein and his influence, Hayek wrote a paper on the topic, now included in vol. IV of his Collected Works. There, he says that he was one of its first readers and that the work “made a great impression on me” (quoted by Ebenstein in his biography, p. 245, where you can find some more insights on this topic). Wittgenstein’s influence was very deep in relation to The Sensory Order-

  7. Adam says:

    Greg: I had no idea! Very interesting.

  8. Theodore says:

    I think that Karl Mannheim’s books on the “sociology of knowledge” might be on the list as books influential to Hayek in the negative sense, i.e., an idea that he rejected.

  9. Classical liberal says:

    Add Bernard de Mandeville’s The Fable of the Bees.

  10. Greg Ransom says:

    Rathenau. My educated guess is that the key book was “The New Society”.

    “If I’m not mistaken, Hayek says somewhere (Hayek on Hayek?) that he decided to study economics during the war because he had read some book about the topic by some german or austrian author. Can you remember which one?”

  11. Greg Ransom says:

    If I recall, Bruce Caldwell has also suggested this.

    “I think that Karl Mannheim’s books on the “sociology of knowledge” might be on the list as books influential to Hayek in the negative sense, i.e., an idea that he rejected.”

  12. Greg Ransom says:

    The Wittgenstein Tractatus influence also comes via Carnap, Russell, Popper, and Kaufmann, and others.

  13. Classical liberal says:

    I’ve just checked Rathenau’s issue. It’s on the ‘Wien – New York – Wien’ chapter of Hayek on Hayek. I can’t either refer to the pages nor quote the words because I’m using a spanish translation, so I’ll summarize Hayek’s words. He brings up three facts: 1) He become interested in ethics in 1916, when he was still attending Gymnasium; then, he bought four books by Ludwig Feuerbach, but he felt that that philosopher particularly was boring. 2) During that time, he read more or less socialist pamphlets by authors like Karl Renner and Walter Rathenau. 3) He ‘discovered’ economics during the war, when his officer gave him two books by Gruntzl and Jentsch. He admits that he doesn’t know how he got interested in economics while reading such poor books. After that, he says that he was captivated, at last, by Menger’s Grundsätze

    A suggestion: it would also be very interesting to make a list of authors which influenced Hayek and how they did it.

  14. Greg Ransom says:

    Classic liberal, Hayek tells a similar story in the UCLA Oral History interviews — and note well that he disparages the Gruntzl and Jentsch books in either interview.

    Any idea any of the Renner pamphlet titles Hayek might have read? I went with Rathenau over Renner because Hayek often talked of the Rathenau influence and gave specifics of its character, and because I could identify actual books / pamphlets that Hayek likely read by Rathenau.

  15. Greg Ransom says:

    _Hayek on Hayek_ is searchable at Google Books. The UCLA Oral History interviews are easily located on line, either searching Taking Hayek Seriously or searching via Google.

  16. Greg Ransom says:

    Classical liberal, here is a puzzle. Hayek was influenced by a lecture on Aristotle’s _Ethics_, but we don’t have any evidence that Hayek read Aristotle’s _Ethics_ at the time of those lectures.

    So do we included Aristotle’s _Ethics_ in the list of books that influenced Hayek? I’d guess is that what we are looking for are books that Hayek read which influenced him — however and in whatever fashion that influence took.

    What do others think. Should Aristotle’s _Ethics_ be in or out?

  17. Classical liberal says:

    Were refering to the same words. Some excerpts of the UCLA Oral History interview are part of Hayek on Hayek. This is the case. The answer I refered to is in pages 39-40 of the english edition (link: http://books.google.es/books?id=sHo2ESBFrNUClpg=PP1dq=hayek%20on%20hayekpg=PA39#v=onepageq=f=false ).

    I dont know to what extent Hayek was influenced by Renners writings. I dont even know what these writings were. According to Wikipedia, Renner wrote the following works before the end of the WW1:

    # Under the penname Synopticus: Staat und Nation (Vienna 1899).
    English: State and Nation In: Ephraim Nimni (ed.), National Cultural Autonomy and Its Contemporary Critics, London: Routledge, 2005 pp. 64 – 82 ISBN 0-415-24964-5
    # Under the penname Rudolf Springer:Der Kampf der Nation um den Staat (1902)
    # Grundlagen und Entwicklungsziele der österr.-ungar. Monarchie, die Krise des Dualismus, (1904)
    # Under his real name: Österreichs Erneuerung (3 vols., 1916/17)
    # Marxismus, Krieg und Internationale (1918)

    Ive found something else about Rathenau. Ebenstein (Friedrich Hayek: A Biography, p. 20) quotes these words from the UCLA interview: Walter Rathenau had become an enthusiastic planner. And I think his ideas about how to reorganize the economy were probably the beginning of my interest in economics. And they were very definitely mildly socialist. Curiously, Hayek said this in the same interview in which he mentions Gruntzl and Jentsch (as authors of the first economics books he read), both of whom Ive never heard about. I havent found anything about them (was Jentsch Hugo Jentsch? http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Jentsch ).

    Aristotles influence is also a troubling topic. While he is widely quoted and discussed in Hayeks late works (e.g. The Fatal Conceit), I dont know what his role was in relation to the young Hayek. As far as I know, he just says that the teacher explained Aristotles ethical theories. Maybe we could investigate if austrian students in those circumstances used to read the original books that were explained by the teachers.

  18. Bob D says:

    Greg, how about any of Bastiat’s or Milton Friedman’s work?

  19. Troy Caplin says:

    I certainly can’t imagine that his thought can be understood at all without the inclusion of Bertalanffy.

  20. Rafe says:

    Hi Classical Liberal (me too) I don’t think you can count the Open Society, tho there was some important influence the other way, for example Popper took on board the rules vs orders idea.

    Not much in the way of broad CL principles in OSE to add to Mises on Liberalism years before which Hayek would have read (is that on the list)?)

  21. Classical liberal says:

    “how about any of Bastiat’s or Milton Friedman’s work?”

    Hayek penned an introduction to Bastiat’s “Selected Essays on Political Economy” ( http://www.econlib.org/library/Bastiat/basEss0.html#Introduction,%20by%20F.%20A.%20Hayek ). However, I’m not sure how important was Bastiat to Hayek’s thought.

    In The Constitution of Liberty Hayek embraces Milton Friedman’s school vouchers proposal. Definitely, Hayek wasn’t influenced by other works, and specially not by Friedman’s monetarist theory.

    “I don’t think you can count the Open Society, tho there was some important influence the other way, for example Popper took on board the rules vs orders idea. ”

    As I said, Logik der Forschung was the biggest popperian influence on Hayek. From 1934, when Popper met Hayek for the first time in the LSE, they influenced each other. That said, I believe The Open Society and its Enemies had some influence on Hayek. Hayek, for example, used the term ‘open society’ together with ‘great society’ (coined by Adam Smith) to refer his liberal utopia. He also quoted that book many times.

    By the way, something by Kant should be added to the list.

  22. actionshoe says:

    I agree with troy caplin, I also think Bertalanffys influenced on Hayek was huge. In one of the smaller essay hakey calls Bertalanffy an old friend… btw.

  23. Eric Auld says:

    Critique of Pure Reason should be in there. Also something by Michael Polanyi (maybe Personal Knowledge or The Logic of Liberty). Also The Doctrine of Saint-Simon.

    What do you guys think?

  24. Greg Ransom says:

    Hayek read a number of neo-Kantian psychologists / philosophers in the early 1920s, while writing his “Sensory Order” paper. That’s the most direct influence on Kant on Hayek.

  25. Greg Ransom says:

    How would folks characterize the influence of Bertalanffy on Hayek?

  26. Greg Ransom says:

    The question with Michael Polanyi is to show an important influence on Hayek of so idea from Polanyi that wasn’t already in Hayek’s own picture of things. Often Polanyi seemed to affirm or put meat on trains of thought already found in Hayek.

  27. Carl Max says:

    I can’t imagine Hayek not reading Adam Smiths Wealth of Nations.

  28. Elliot says:


    Concept of Motivation by R. S. Peters. A big influence on his LLL, Vol 1

  29. Elliot says:

    Oops. It’s already there. I looked right over it.

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  32. W. Robert Black says:

    Mannheim, on a fundamental epistemology level, seemed to concern von Hayek considerably. Had the former lived and produced as long as did the latter, I cannot shake the notion that the lines of delineation that existed between them would have become even more apparent . . . and/or have fundamentally dissolved. The subject of the title of Mannheim’s first work, Structural Analysis of Epistemology, pervaded all of his subsequent publications, and von Hayek’s work of a similar bent which he called “the most important I have yet done…” (The Sensory Order – 1952) about the time of Mennheim’s early demise, lends credence.

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