Against polanyi-centrism: Hayek and the re-emergence of "spontaneous order"

John P. Bladel
2005 The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics  
an anonymous referee for their comments. The usual caveats apply. 1 The key histories of spontaneous order are Barry (1982) and Hamowy (1987) . Hamowy and Ross (1987) give Hayek credit for coining the term "spontaneous order." For a more recent article on Hayek and the spontaneous order tradition, see Horwitz (2001). is known for making a number of important contributions to economics and social thought. If, however, one had to identify a single concept that captures the thrust of Hayek's
more » ... ectual project, one would probably have to say "spontaneous order." The intellectual history of spontaneous order has largely been written according to one standard account. That account is, in a nutshell, as follows: The first major theorists of spontaneous order were the Scottish Enlightenment philosophers of the eighteenth century, especially Hume and Smith. This tradition was expanded upon by the Austrian School of economics, first by Carl Menger in the late nineteenth century and then by Hayek in the twentieth century. Hayek is given credit both for rediscovering spontaneous order and for naming the phenomenon. 1 Recent scholarship, however, has suggested that Hayek's role in the revival of spontaneous order theory was equal or secondary to that of another figure: the Hungarian scientist and philosopher Michael Polanyi. Polanyi also made use of the idea and term "spontaneous order," it has been written, only Polanyi's usage actually preceded that of Hayek. Thus it appears we are now faced with that old Habsburg dilemma: when we refer to spontaneous order theory, should we call it "Austrian," or "Austro-Hungarian"? Struan Jacobs 1999) has made the revisionist argument most forcefully and extensively.
doi:10.1007/s12113-005-1001-x fatcat:swvcc7xkdbewnnf2nypw637lz4