Individualism in Modern Thought from Adam Smith to Hayek

By Cohen, Andrew I. | Freeman, December 1999 | Go to article overview

Individualism in Modern Thought from Adam Smith to Hayek


Cohen, Andrew I., Freeman


Individualism in Modern Thought from Adam Smith to Hayek

by Lorenzo Infantino

Routledge * 1998 * 248 pages * $85.00

Reviewed by Andrew I. Cohen

Some social theorists believe that moral, political, and economic order must be imposed according to some central plan. In their view, only constant management can generate and sustain the complex, mutually supportive norms of advanced societies. Another tradition in social thought defends an "open society"-one founded on respect for voluntarism and individual freedom. Thinkers in that tradition believe social order can and should emerge spontaneously.

Lorenzo Infantino, a professor of sociology in Rome, embraces methodological individualism, which understands complicated social phenomena in terms of their simpler components, namely, individual human actions. Infantino presents a wide-ranging survey of central figures in sociology, political economy, and philosophy to compare how individualism and collectivism account for social order.

Two hundred years ago David Hume argued that order does not entail an intelligence that creates it. Admittedly, what Adam Smith calls the "invisible hand," and what E A. Hayek (following Michael Polanyi) calls a "spontaneous order" may seem planned. It is tempting to misread the complexities of an economy as designed or at least as something design could improve.

Appealing to figures such as Smith, Karl Popper, Ludwig von Mises, and Georg Simmel, Infantino suggests that order must not be imposed. Free actors engage in mutually beneficial exchanges that bureaucrats could not possibly fathom. The reciprocal relationships people voluntarily establish channel selfinterest to mutual advantage and promote a prosperous social order.

Social contract thinkers speak of individuals in a "natural condition" who literally construct a social order. Thomas Hobbes, for example, regarded men as having "sprung out of the earth, and suddenly (like mushrooms) come to full maturity, without all kind of engagement to each other." Infantino prefers Smith, Bernard Mandeville, and Popper, all of whom dismissed the idea of a pre-social "pure self." Society is necessary to generate language, moral norms, and an individual's very capacity for self-awareness. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Individualism in Modern Thought from Adam Smith to Hayek
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.