The Invisible Hand of Friedrich Hayek: Submission and Spontaneous Order

Jessica Whyte
Political Theory

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references Michel Foucault on 2/22/2020, 1:00:11 AM

references Friedrich Hayek on 2/22/2020, 1:00:11 AM

references Invisible hand on 2/22/2020, 1:00:11 AM

abstract Friedrich Hayek’s account of “spontaneous order” has generated increasing interest in recent decades. His argument for the superiority of the market in distributing knowledge without the need for central oversight has appealed to progressive democratic theorists, who are wary of the hubris of state planning and attracted to possibilities for self-organization, and to Foucaultians, who have long counseled political theory to cut off the King’s head. A spontaneous social order, organized by an invisible hand, would appear to dispense with arbitrary power and foster creativity and individual liberty. This article challenges this view by highlighting the centrality of submission to Hayek’s account of spontaneous order. It shows that Hayek struggles to obscure the providentialism underpinning the account of social order he derives from Adam Ferguson and the Scottish Enlightenment. Nonetheless, his own account of spontaneous order relies on faith in the workings of the market, and submission to unintelligible market forces. on 2/22/2020, 1:00:30 AM

references The birth of biopolitics on 2/22/2020, 1:09:24 AM

excerpt Challenging what he portrays as the standard account, which sees in the invisible hand a theological conception of the natural order, Foucault suggests what is invisible is not a providential guiding hand but the economic mechanism, which remains obscure both to economic subjects and to the sovereign and therefore resists political intervention. Economic rationality, Foucault proposes, is founded on the invisibility of the economic and social totality. This invisibility, he argues, does not arise from the imperfection of human intelligence, which prevents people noticing the hand behind them. Rather, the collective good is simply incalculable as it results from the blind, self-interested actions of economic agents. By focusing on invisibility at the expense of the hand, Foucault emphasizes the critical role this trope plays in liberal governmental rationality: “the basic function of the invisible hand,” he writes, “is to disqualify the political sovereign.” 2 on 2/22/2020, 1:10:00 AM

excerpt For Foucault too, the market is more than a mechanism for distributing goods: it is a social and political model that renders obsolete the contractualist myth of a sovereignty founded on the delegation of natural rights. 2 on 2/22/2020, 1:10:36 AM

quote “Economics is an atheistic discipline; economics is a discipline without God on 2/22/2020, 1:10:46 AM