pp. 225-238: Richard E. Wagner

Game Theory and the Architecture of Social Theory: Reflections on Luigino Bruni’s Ethos of the Market
Studies in Emergent Order, Vol. 7, 2014


This essay is written for a symposium on Luigino Bruni’s The Genesis and Ethos of the Market. That book identifies a tradition of Neapolitan civil economy that arose in the 18th century, and which the author opposes to the more familiar tradition of Smithian political economy. The difference in traditions is located in contrasting theories of society in which markets are situated. Where Bruni reduces the Smithian tradition to a prisoners’ or Hobbesian dilemma, he reduces the Neapolitan tradition to a stag hunt. While this essay accepts the general superiority of the stag hunt as a framework for organizing social theory, it also explains the misleading character of Bruni’s reduction of society to a universal stag hunt. In place of that reduction, this essay treats societies as ecologies of stag hunts which in turn leads to recognition that societies are continually turbulent and conflictual and not placid and peaceful.

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