The Pure Theory of Capital, F. A. Hayek’s long-overlooked, little-understood volume, was his most detailed work in economic theory. Originally published in 1941 when fashionable economic thought had shifted to John Maynard Keynes, Hayek’s manifesto of capital theory is now available again for today’s students and economists to discover.
With a new introduction by Hayek expert Lawrence H. White, who firmly situates the book not only in historical and theoretical context but within Hayek’s own life and his struggle to complete the manuscript, this edition commemorates the celebrated scholar’s last major work in economics. Offering a detailed account of the equilibrium relationships between inputs and outputs in an economy, Hayek’s stated objective was to make capital theory—which had previously been devoted almost entirely to the explanation of interest rates—“useful for the analysis of the monetary phenomena of the real world.” His ambitious goal was nothing less than to develop a capital theory that could be fully integrated into the business cycle theory.
The greatest failing of non-Austrian theories of macroeconomics, it's been said, is that they lack a robust theory of capital. F.A. Hayek sought to fill out the theory of the business cycle with an impenetrable one, and the result was this remarkable 1941 treatise. It took him many years to write. It is surely his most detailed work in economic theory.
Appearing at the height of the Keynesian revolution, this treatise was sadly overlooked. Today it can be appreciated anew.
It offers a detailed account of the equilibrium relationships between inputs and outputs in an economy, Hayek’s stated objective was to make capital theory—which had previously been devoted almost entirely to the explanation of interest rates—“useful for the analysis of the monetary phenomena of the real world.” This takes him into a long explanation of the heterogeneity of the capital stock and its relationship to the passage of time.
Hayek reports that he never felt that he had fully completed the book but at 480 pages, it remains the most complete treatise on the subject ever published.
To be sure, this is for serious students, but the effort to grapple with Hayek's thought is heavily rewarded here.
Friedrich von Hayek
Friedrich August Hayek CH (8 May 1899 – 23 March 1992), born in Austria-Hungary as Friedrich August von Hayek and frequently known as F. A. Hayek, was an Austrian, later turned British, economist and philosopher best known for his defense of classical liberalism. In 1974, Hayek shared the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (with Gunnar Myrdal) for his "pioneering work in the theory of money and economic fluctuations and ... penetrating analysis of the interdependence of economic, social and institutional phenomena".
Hayek is an economist and major political thinker of the twentieth century. Hayek's account of how changing prices communicate information which enables individuals to coordinate their plans is widely regarded as an important achievement in economics. He also contributed to the fields of systems thinking, jurisprudence, neuroscience, and the history of ideas.
Hayek served in World War I and said that his experience in the war and his desire to help avoid the mistakes that had led to the war led him to his career. Hayek lived in Austria, Great Britain, the United States and Germany, and became a British subject in 1938. He spent most of his academic life at the London School of Economics (LSE), the University of Chicago, and the University of Freiburg.
In 1984, he was appointed as a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour by Queen Elizabeth II on the advice of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for his "services to the study of economics". He was the first recipient of the Hanns Martin Schleyer Prizein 1984. He also received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991 from president George H. W. Bush. In 2011, his article The Use of Knowledge in Society was selected as one of the top 20 articles published in the American Economic Review during its first 100 years.