Spontaneous Order: A Rich Tradition with Lessons for Today

Spontaneous Order

If there is one core idea in Friedrich August von Hayek’s thought – or, indeed, in the framework of Austrian Economics overall, it is the one of spontaneous order. Peculiarly, while that is the case, spontaneous order is also a concept not exclusive to the Austrian School – nor to economics.

Indeed, it is a rich tradition, going back centuries, if not even millennia, and across disciplines. While Hayek eventually coined it as spontaneous order, others recognized similar processes under names such as invisible hand and organic institutions. This tradition encompasses thinkers like Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Carl Menger, and Roger Scruton. And this tradition has highly relevant lessons for today’s world.

It is because of this that we will start a rediscovery journey of this concept of spontaneous order to better understand the theory and see how it still applies today. In this, I will take a somewhat heterodox approach to it which does not reflect entirely Hayek’s concept of a spontaneous order – nor does it of any of the other thinkers mentioned, as all of them focused on different aspects and, at that, in different ways. And yet, it is my hope that this fusionist attempt will be fruitful and also bring forth a novel perspective of the tradition which still honors – and does not distort – the views of these crucial thinkers.

I hope that you will join me on this series over the next weeks. And feel free to send me comments and suggestions (or hate mail) via e-mail, Twitter, or post something with the hashtag #SpontaneousOrder, and follow along via our social media.

  1. Social Economics: Between Under- and Oversocialization
  2. Spontaneous Economy: The Invisible Hand at Work
  3. Spontaneous Society: Tradition as a Repository of Knowledge
  4. Government: From Knowledge Problem to Localism
  5. Freedom, Decentralism, Prudence: Lessons for Today


Do you want to add something to Kai’s thoughts? Or do you disagree? Then feel free to respond to it by sending or pitching us an article.

Find all articles in German on the blog of the Friedrich A. v. Hayek Institute.

Kai Weiss is the Research and Outreach Coordinator of the Austrian Economics Center and a board member of the Friedrich A. v. Hayek Institute.


The views expressed on austriancenter.com are not necessarily those of the Austrian Economics Center.

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