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Title: The spontaneous order and preferences for flexibility
Author: Cordasco, Carlo Ludovico
ISNI:       0000 0004 8506 3608
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2019
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Designing political institutions able to secure the conditions for cooperation among persons who exhibit widely diverse perspectives, underpinned by different structures of preferences and goals, constitutes, perhaps, the greatest challenge of contemporary political theorising. F.A. Hayek's theory of the spontaneous order provides one key insight on what political institutions of complex societies should look like: since only individuals know their structures of preferences, goals and their relevant circumstances, theorists and planners, by virtue of their inability to collect such dispersed knowledge, cannot design and devise and devise fine-grained systems of rules aimed at defining people's specific terms of cooperation. In order to create the conditions for cooperation in complex societies, Hayek suggests, we must design political institutions that define a large protected sphere of actions, which equips individuals with the ability to shape their specific terms of cooperation on the basis of their own local knowledge. Hayek identifies such an institutional arrangement in the protection of Lockean rights to life, liberty and property. In this thesis, I attempt to show that an aptly modified version of Hayek's theory of the spontaneous order lends itself to a contractarian justification. In particular, I aim to demonstrate that individuals, who are uncertain about their future preferences and goals, have instrumental reasons to converge on institutional arrangements that define a large protected sphere of action, which allows them to define their specific terms of cooperation on the basis of local knowledge which will unveil to them during their life paths. In fact, individuals' uncertainty about their future structures of preferences and goals elicits the emergence of preferences for flexibility, which make them abstract from their current set of preferences and goals when facing a social contract bargaining scenario, and invite them to choose institutional arrangements which leave the door open for adaptation to changes in their future identities. Preferences for flexibility, I aim to show, can solve much political disagreement stemming from people's seemingly incompatible structures of preferences and goals.
Supervisor: Sleat, Matt ; Alasdair, Cochrane Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available