Elaine Sternberg on ‘Spontaneous Order: Common Confusions, Unexpected Examples’


This event from the UK think tank Adam Smith Institute will host Elaine Sternberg to discuss the phenomenon of spontaneous order.

Spontaneous order is an extremely widespread phenomenon, crucial for understanding human institutions as fundamental as language and the law, morals, markets and money. It is also central to a key defense of individual liberty. But although the role of the ‘invisible hand’ is generally appreciated by economists, the operation of spontaneous order is seldom recognised by others, and is often misunderstood.

Elaine Sternberg will investigate this powerful notion, and unpack confusions that result from its typically being characterised as ‘the result of human action, but not of human design’. She will explore ways that spontaneous order might operate in arenas ranging from literary criticism to science to the placement of street furniture.

Elaine Sternberg earned her Ph.D. in philosophy at the London School of Economics, where she was a Fulbright Fellow and a Lecturer. She is a Visiting Research Scholar in Philosophy at the University of Miami (FL), and has held appointments as a Visiting Research Fellow of the University of Leeds, and as a Senior Visiting Fellow at the University of Buckingham. In the US, she has also been a Bradley Fellow and Visiting Scholar at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center of Bowling Green University, and a Faculty Fellow at the Center for Ethics and Public Affairs of Tulane University’s Murphy Institute.

Formerly also an investment banker in New York, London and Paris, Elaine Sternberg founded and profitably ran the first two equity syndicate businesses in London. She remains Principal of Analytical Solutions, a consultancy firm specialising in business ethics and corporate governance, and is on the academic advisory councils of the Institute of Economic Affairs, and of Protect, the UK “whistleblowers’ charity”.

She has written extensively on subjects at the intersection of philosophy, politics and economics, including ‘Defining Capitalism’. Her free market Just Business: Business Ethics in Action is now in its fourth edition (Phronimos Press, 2018).

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