Understandably, Hayek has an ax to grind, the vulgar notion of individualism, as portrayed best, perhaps, by those who have subscribed since to the libertarian creed and strand of the liberal dogma. But this was but an aftereffect, a fallout, the unfortunate consequence of Hobbes’s original writings (which, as is the fate of all writings, must suffer over time the fate of becoming diluted). Hobbes had preceded Descartes; he wasn’t influenced by the French philosopher; and his brand of rationalism, if rationalism indeed it was, wasn’t fashioned in the Cartesian mold. Hayek’s gravest error: the contrast of his brand of individualism with socialism or collectivism. It’s a totally modern conception, unheard of in Hobbes’s own time, and it displays Hayek’s modern bias. Obviously, Hayek is projecting.
If I appear to be changing my tune here, so much the better. For although I presented Hobbes’s account of individualism as lending itself to caricature, I’m ready to take it back. I’m beginning to suspect that Hobbes was a far more conservative thinker, much more in the line of Burke and Hayek, than meets the eye.
I shall turn to these and related considerations in sections to follow.