THE HISTORY OF HAYEK’S THEORY OF CULTURAL EVOLUTION

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Abstract

This paper traces the historical origins of Friedrich A. Hayek’s theory of cultural evolution, and argues that Hayek’s evolutionary thought was significantly inspired by Alexander M. Carr-Saunders and Oxford zoology. While traditional Hayek scholarship emphasizes the influence of Carl Menger and the British eighteenth-century moral philosophers, I claim that these sources underdetermine what was most characteristic of Hayek’s theory, viz. the idea that cultural evolution is a matter of group selection, and the idea that natural selection operates on acquired as well as on inherited properties.