“The Counter-Revolution of Science: Studies on the Abuse of Reason” is a book by Friedrich Hayek where he addresses the issue of scientism in the social sciences. Hayek’s key argument is that while the methods and objective certainty of hard sciences have their place, their application to the social sciences can be problematic. Hard sciences work to remove the “human factor” to achieve objective results, but the social sciences deal with human action, which involves choice, purpose, and subjective values that can’t be objectively quantified or predicted.
Hayek critiques positivism and historicism, doctrines which have influenced modern socialistic theories, arguing that the social sciences require different methodologies. He is concerned with the way many social scientists have turned reason upside down, trying to adapt the physical science methods to study human action and society, which he considers inappropriate.
The book is structured into three parts, beginning with a reworking of Hayek’s essay “Scientism and the Study of Society,” followed by an analysis of the doctrine of Saint-Simon, and ending with an examination of Comte and Hegel’s philosophy of history. Hayek believes that social sciences, particularly economics, developed their methods based on the nature of their unique problems, rather than reflecting on their relation to other disciplines.
Moreover, Hayek explains that social institutions such as the market, prices, money, and language arose from the independent and voluntary actions of individuals, rather than through central planning or design. He warns against the belief that society can be analyzed and planned using the methods of physical sciences—observation, experimentation, and measurement—because the actions of men cannot be so easily quantified or predicted.
In essence, Hayek’s book is a deep critique of the application of scientific methods to social phenomena and a defense of the uniqueness and complexity of human action in social contexts. The book urges a recognition of the limits of scientific methodology in the realm of social sciences and an appreciation for the spontaneous order that arises from individual actions and interactions