Can the Social Contract Be Signed by an Invisible Hand?

EDITED BY BERND LAHNO AND GEOFFREY BRENNAN
RATIONALITY, MARKETS AND MORALS. VOLUME 4 (2013)

The title of this special topic in RMM is borrowed from a 1978 paper of Hillel Steiner in which he argues against Robert Nozick’s invisible hand conception of the emergence of the state. Steiner believes that central institutions of social order such as money and government need some form of conscious endorsement by individuals to emerge and to persist over time.

Anthony de Jasay’s critique (in Philosophy 85, 2010) of Robert Sugden’s plea for a Humean version of contractarianism (see RMM, Vol 0) motivated the editors to take this old – but still central – theme of the debate on the origin of social order as one starting point in a new attempt to evaluate the idea of a social contract). The special topic starts with a previously unpublished paper by Hillel Steiner, originally written in 1986, in which he extends and elaborates on his argument about money from the 1978 paper, and with an original article by Anthony de Jasay, in which he further clarifies his worries. A response by Robert Sugden follows. Further contributions will discuss the matter by reference to the roots of the debate in seventeenth and eighteenth century philosophy or to recent advancements in economics, the behavioral sciences or in social philosophy.