Planning versus the market: The dispute between Hayek and Mannheim and its contemporary relevance

Hammersley, Martyn (2021). Planning versus the market: The dispute between Hayek and Mannheim and its contemporary relevance. The British Journal of Sociology, 72(5) pp. 1464–1478.



Parallels have been drawn between the 1930s and today, notably the existence of unstable economic conditions as well as deepening, antagonistic ideological divisions. In the 1940s, two books appeared that presented opposing diagnoses of, and remedies for, the problems that faced Western societies at that time. In Man and Society, Karl Mannheim argued that forms of political organization had not adapted to changing social, economic, and technological conditions, and that this explained the rise of communism and fascism. He insisted that, in order to avoid disorder and political extremism, liberal democracies needed to engage in greater planning of their economic and social affairs, with sociology providing the synthesis of scientific knowledge required for this. Just a few years later, Friedrich Hayek published The Road to Serfdom, in which Mannheim's work was a central target. He insisted that only the preservation of liberal freedoms and competitive markets could prevent the spread of totalitarianism. This paper outlines the arguments of each of these authors and provides an account of some of the historical background against which their disagreement arose. It also explores the relevance of their very different positions today, at a time when the neoliberal ideology that Hayek championed continues to have great influence but is under increasing attack from across the political spectrum.

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