Clash of the Titans: When the Market and Science Collide

Here is the abstract and the introduction from the volume Experts and Epistemic Monopolies where our paper can be found.


Purpose/problem statement – Two highly successful complex adaptive systems are the Market and Science, each with an inherent tendency toward epistemic imperialism. Of late, science, notably medical science, seems to have become functionally subservient to market imperatives. We offer a twofold Hayekian analysis: a justification of the multiplicity view of spontaneous orders and a critique of the libertarian justification of market prioricity.

Methodology/approach – This chapter brings to light Hayekian continuities between diverse literatures – philosophical, epistemological, cognitive, and scientific.

Findings – The very precondition of knowledge is the exploitation of the epistemic virtues accorded by society’s manifold of spontaneous forces, a manifold that gives context and definition to intimate, regulate, and inform action. The free-flow of information is the lifeblood of civil (liberal) society. The commoditization of medical knowledge promotes a dysfunctional free-flow of information that compromises notions of expertise and ultimately has implications for the greater good.

Research limitations/implications – While we accept that there are irresolvable tensions between these epistemic magisteria we are troubled by the overt tampering with the spontaneous order mechanism of medical science. The lessons of Hayek are not being assimilated by many who would go by the adjective Hayekian.

Originality/value of chapter – On offer is a Hayekian restatement (contra the libertarian view typically attributed to Hayek) cautioning that no one spontaneous order should dominate over another, neither should they be made conversable. Indeed, we argue that the healthy functioning of a market presupposes institutions that should not answer to market imperatives.


It’s a common error to mistake the nature of liberalism. Of course ‘‘liberalism’’ is a term with many meanings, some unrelated and not all compatible. A common refrain from both self-avowed Hayekians and critics alike attributes to Hayek the view that the market is the root of social order. In this chapter we dispute this assertion. Hayek made it clear in no uncertain terms that the market exists as part of a manifold of spontaneous orders that constitute the fabric of civil (liberal) society. Hayek’s defence of common law against legislation, morality, and tradition against so-called ‘‘social justice,’’ and the market against the egalitarian impulse affirms the multiplicity view. What Hayek was recommending was the interdependence of independent equals. This provides the philosophical backdrop to the discussion. As grist to the Hayekian mill we draw upon an eclectic body of literature and examples. The discussion unfolds as follows: the second section examines Hayek’s supposed economism and libertarianism; the third section looks at the characteristics of science as a spontaneous order; the fourth section recasts the notion of a spontaneous order as an extended cognitive system afforded by technological developments. The fifth section examines some of the distortive market influences upon medical science and the sixth section discusses the philosophical motivations behind the open access movement. The penultimate section looks at a specific case study – The Knowledge Hub for Pathology (hereafter TKHP) – that instantiates the virtues of a spontaneous order discussed in the preceding four sections. We conclude with a few brief remarks.