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Spontaneity as a Concept of General Significance: The Austrian School on Money and Economic Order

“Spontaneity as a Concept of General Significance: The Austrian School on Money and Economic Order”

Scott Scheall

The Austrian School of economics is famous for, among other things, its members’ elucidation and defense of the spontaneous-order tradition in the social sciences. Building primarily on the work of David Hume, Adam Smith, and other philosophers of the Scottish Enlightenment, Austrian economists such as Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises, and F. A. Hayek have done more than any other modern philosophical movement, or school of social-scientific thought, to establish and draw out the implications of the spontaneous nature of many social, particularly economic, and especially monetary, phenomena. I offer a brief history of the indefensibly paltry role that, beyond the Scottish Enlightenment and Austrian School, spontaneity has played in philosophy and the social sciences. I show how both Scottish philosophers and Austrian economists have used spontaneity to explain money and money to illustrate spontaneity. I conclude that the general significance of spontaneity has still not been fully appreciated and that this represents an opportunity for philosophers and social scientists to further develop the Austrians’ analysis of spontaneity.

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