Friedrich August von Hayek (May 8, 1899 - March 23, 1992) was an economist of the Austrian School noted for his defense of free-market capitalism against a rising tide of socialism thought in the mid-20th century. He also made important contributions to the fields of jurisprudence and psychology.
In The Road to Serfdom (1944) and subsequent works, Hayek said that socialism necessarily led to fascism as central planning overrode individual preferences in economic and social life. Hayek contended that in Centrally Planned Economies, an individual or a group of individuals decided the allocation of resources for the whole country and suffered from the economic calculation problem. This accumulation of power led to misuse and growth of fascism. In The Use of Knowledge in Society (1945), he sought to show how the price mechanism serves to share and synchronise local and personal knowledge in achieving diverse ends among society's members through a principle of self-organization. Hayek coined the term catallexy for a "self-organizing system of voluntary co-operation".
Hayek viewed the price mechanism, not as a conscious invention, but as an evolved habit. Such thinking led him to speculate how the human brain could accommodate such evolved behaviour and, in The Sensory Order (1952), he proposed, independently of Donald Hebb, the connectionist hypothesis that forms the basis of the technology of neural networks and much modern neurophysiology.
Though an academic outcast for much of his career, Hayek's work gained new attention in the 1980s and 1990s with the triumph of economically liberal right-leaning governments in the United States and Great Britain (Margaret Thatcher, British prime minister from 1979 to 1990, was an outspoken devotee of Hayek's writings). However, Hayek sought to distance himself from the political right in his essay Why I am not a Conservative (1960).
Hayek is often referred to as F. A. Hayek, and sometimes by his full name.