Intellectual History of Emergent Order Studies

Barry, Norman (1982). “The Tradition of Spontaneous Order,” Library of Economics and Liberty Vol. v, no. 2(Arlington, VA: Institute for Humane Studies), pp. 7-58.

An excellent overview of key concepts as applied to social life, intellectual history, and a focus on the market and common law. In terms of intellectual history, Barry focuses on the role of the sixteenth century Spanish ‘School of Salamanca,’ Sir Matthew Hale, Bernard Mandeville, Josiah Tucker, David Hume, Adam Ferguson, Adam Smith, Herbert Spencer, Carl Menger, and F. A. Hayek.

Hayek, F. A. (1967). “The Legal and Political Philosophy of David Hume,” Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (New York: Routledge), pp. 106-121.

Hayek distinguishes between the constructivist rationalism of many Enlightenment thinkers and the rational criticism of rationalism developed by Bernard Mandeville, and particularly by David Hume. Hume developed what came to be considered 19th century liberalism, as distinct from its democratic side, basing his skepticism towards political power on his argument for the narrow bounds of human understanding. Human development occurred primarily through evolution towards unintended outcomes rather than deliberate design. This was particularly true for the rise of law, but also was important in other fields.

Hayek, F. A.  (1978). “Dr Bernard Mandeville,” New Studies in Philosophy, Politics, Economics and the History of Ideas (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), pp. 249-266.

Hayek argues Mandeville was the first to decisively introduce the concept of spontaneous or emergent order into Western thought, though he himself did little to develop it. That task fell on Hume and the Scottish Enlightenment. Mandeville’s interest in emergent order developed as he worked out the implications of his psychology, and laid the foundation on which Hume built. For Hayek there could be little greater praise.

* Horwitz, Steven (1999). Of Human Action But Not of Human Design, 1999 Frank P. Piskor Lecture (Canton, NY: St Lawrence University).

Perhaps the best brief overview of spontaneous order theory, beginning with its roots in the Scottish Enlightenment , especially Adam Ferguson and Adam Smith, through Karl Menger and Hayek to contemporary applications not only in economics, but also law, linguistics, evolutionary psychology, high technology, and the biological sciences. Horowitz also applies its implications to how we understand other cultures and links it with work in the Weberian sociological tradition.

Petsoulas, Christina (2001). Hayek’s Liberalism and its Origins, his idea of spontaneous order and the Scottish Enlightenment (New York: Routledge).

Petsoulas contrasts Hayek’s evolutionary theory, based upon the unconscious adoption of successful traditions, with a model of conscious and rational adaptation based on trial and error, found in Mandeville, Hume and Smith. The author is particularly critical of Hayek’s evolutionary theory which appears to require the existence of certain rules in order to generate a spontaneous order. Unlike the price system, rules of just conduct are ‘neither generated nor maintained spontaneously’. The argument running through it is strong though dependant on too strict a reading of Hayek’s theory in my opinion.

– Contributed by Mark Koyama

Titles not yet annotated:

Eisner, Wolfram (1989). “Adam Smith’s Model of the Origin and Emergence of Institutions: The Modern Findings of the Classical Approach,” Journal of Economic Issues Vol. xxiii, no. 2, pp. 189-213.

Haarkonssen, Knud (1981). The Science of a Legislator: The National Jurisprudence of David Hume and Adam Smith (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Hamowy, Ronald (1990). The Scottish Enlightenment and the Theory of Spontaneous Order.

Hill, L. “Anticipations of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Social Thought in the Work of Adam Ferguson,” Archives Europeennes de Soziologie Vol. xxxvii, no.1.

Seidentrop, Larry (1994). Tocqueville (Past Masters) (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Seidentrop, Larry (1979). Two Liberal Traditions, The Idea of Freedom, Alan Ryan (ed.) (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 153-74.