pp.50-81: Guilherme Vasconcelos Vilaça

“From Hayek’s Spontaneous Orders to Luhmann’s Autopoietic Systems”
Studies in Emergent Order, Vol. 3 (2010)


In this paper I contrast Hayek’s and Luhmann’s treatment of law as a complex social system. Through a detailed examination of Hayek’s account of law, I criticize the explanatory power of his central distinction between spontaneous order and organization. Furthermore, I conclude that its application to law leads to different results from the ones derived by Hayek. The central failure of Hayek’s failure, however, lies in his identification of complex systems with systems of liberal content maximizing individual freedom. Indeed, in this way, he can only account for systems-individuals and not systems-systems interactions. I introduce Luhmann’s theory of autopoietic systems, which I submit, can solve all the mentioned problems and seems a much more promising conceptual architecture to grasp social systems in the context of a complex society.

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