December 2023: H.G. Wells, Technocracy and Liberty

Please join us in December 2023 for a Virtual Reading Group with Alberto Mingardi


We appreciate your interest in this virtual reading group. Unfortunately, this VRG is full and we are no longer accepting registrations. We invite you to check out our upcoming events here. We hope to see you at a future VRG.

Novelist H.G. Wells (1866-1946) is still beloved for some of the most brilliant stories of the early 20th century: from The Time Machine to the Invisible Man, quite a lot of his prose survived the test of time, has been brilliantly adapted by Hollywood and is still part of our collective imagination.

Still, Wells keeps being part of the contemporaneous discussion - albeit perhaps not so openly - as an early advocate for the scientific management of society. Close to the Fabians (with whom he had quarrels), a disciple of Thomas Huxley, Wells helped popularizing the idea that a better scientific understanding of reality needed planning.

For this very reason, he was a bete-noire of F.A. Hayek, who criticized him publicly and singled him out as an example of those conceited yet pusillanimous intellectuals he so often criticized.

This VRG aims at comparing the ideas of Wells and Huxley, but also wishes to provide the participant with a broader understanding of Wells’s approaches and motives.

Session I: Thursday, December 7, 2023, 12:00-1:00 pm EST, On H.G. Wells

The first session will focus on some secondary literature to help providing the participants with a better understanding of Wells: his context, his polar stars, his ambitions.


John Carey, The Intellectuals and the Masses. Pride and Prejudice among the Literary Intelligentsia 1880-1939, London, Faber & Faber, 1992, chapter “H.G. Wells Getting Rid of People”, pp. 118-134

Paul Cantor, “The Invisible Man" and the Invisible Hand: H. G. Wells's Critique of Capitalism,” The American Scholar, vol. 68 n.3, 1999, pp. 89-102 

Martin Gardner, “H. G. Wells in Russia Wells Had a Defective Vision of Lenin's Communist State”, The Freeman, May 1995 

Session II: Thursday, December 14, 2023, 12:00-1:00 pm EST, Wells and Utopia

The second session will present some samples of Wells’ “scientific Utopianism”: two from the early 1900s (his Fabian period, so to say) work, one from his later days.


H. G. Wells, Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress Upon Human Life and Thought, London, Chapman  & Hall, 1902, chapter 5 “The Life-history of Democracy”, pp. 143-175

H.G. Wells, A Modern Utopia, London, Fisher Unwin, 1905, chapter 3 “Utopian Economics”, pp. 70-112

H.G. Wells, The Fate of Man, New York, Longman Greens, 1939, chapter 8 “What Man Has to Learn”, p. 64

Session III: Thursday, December 21, 2023, 12:00-1:00 pm EST, Hayek vs Wells

The third session will provide a sketch of Hayek’s rejoinder, with two texts in which Hayek openly mentioned and attacked Wells (the chapters from The Road to Serfdom and The Fatal Conceit) and one indirect criticism of Wells and his kind of intellectuals. The presence of pieces both from Hayek’s 1944 bestseller and 1988 intellectual testament will help in acknowledging if and how he adjusted his arguments over time, changing their tone and perhaps fine tuning them. 


F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1944, chapter 6 “Planning and the Rule of Law”, pp. 72-87

F.A. Hayek, “Planning, Science and Freedom” now in F.A. Hayek, Socialism and War. Essays, Documents, Reviews, ed. by Bruce Caldwell, Indianapolis, LibertyFund, 2009, pp. 213-220 

F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit. The Errors of Socialism, ed. by W.W. Bartley III,  Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1991 (1988), , chapter 4 “The Revolt of Instinct and Reason”, pp. 48-65.