Title

Theories of spontaneous disorder

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-1-1997

Abstract

Neorealism relies on an unacknowledged and pessimistic reading of the theory of spontaneous order - developed originally by Adam Smith and other thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment - in order to drive a wedge between action and its intended results. This reading allows neorealists to veil their practical and theoretical commitments to the virtues of anarchy, inequality and hegemony in international society. An examination of theories of spontaneous order reveals, however, that the conclusions of the theory are more likely to follow when agents are knowledgeable about their social context. Knowledgeability implies human reflexivity suggesting that even institutions emerging spontaneously can become infused with human design. Such reflexivity implies not a clear separation but an overlap between intentions and outcomes. This overlap means that: (1) the study of intended action needs to become a required part of international relations theory; and (2) favored international outcomes necessitate an explicit discussion of the values that drive theory and practice. © 1997 Routledge.

Publication Name

Review of International Political Economy

Volume Number

4

First Page

319

Last Page

348

Issue Number

2

DOI

10.1080/096922997347805

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