Encyclopedia of Law and Economics

2019 Edition
| Editors: Alain Marciano, Giovanni Battista Ramello

Constructivism, Cultural Evolution, and Spontaneous Order

  • Régis ServantEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-7753-2_756


This essay describes two completely different approaches which have been distinguished by Friedrich A. Hayek, the “constructivist” one and the “evolutionary” one, to the problem of how to develop institutions appropriate for the achievement of a desirable society. It does it by detailing Hayek’s analysis of the two approaches. First, the essay describes the “constructivist” contention that only institutions deliberately adopted by certain competent persons are likely to achieve a desirable society. Then, it presents the “evolutionary” viewpoint defended by Hayek, according to which a lot of beneficial institutions can be discovered only through spontaneous, undesigned growth.


Hayek uses the term “constructivist rationalists” to designate a large and diverse group of scholars which includes Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Voltaire, Rousseau, Bentham, Austin, Hegel, Marx, Comte, Saint-Simon, and the American Institutionalists. These scholars, Hayek...

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PHAREUniversity Paris 1 Panthéon-SorbonneParisFrance