Invisible Hands: Self-organization And The Eighteenth Century by Jonathan Sheehan

Invisible Hands: Self-organization And The Eighteenth Century

byJonathan Sheehan, Dror Wahrman

Hardcover | May 29, 2015

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Why is the world orderly, and how does this order come to be? Human beings inhabit a multitude of apparently ordered systems—natural, social, political, economic, cognitive, and others—whose origins and purposes are often obscure. In the eighteenth century, older certainties about such orders, rooted in either divine providence or the mechanical operations of nature, began to fall away. In their place arose a new appreciation for the complexity of things, a new recognition of the world’s disorder and randomness, new doubts about simple relations of cause and effect—but with them also a new ability to imagine the world’s orders, whether natural or manmade, as self-organizing. If large systems are left to their own devices, eighteenth-century Europeans increasingly came to believe, order will emerge on its own without any need for external design or direction.

In Invisible Hands, Jonathan Sheehan and Dror Wahrman trace the many appearances of the language of self-organization in the eighteenth-century West. Across an array of domains, including religion, society, philosophy, science, politics, economy, and law, they show how and why this way of thinking came into the public view, then grew in prominence and arrived at the threshold of the nineteenth century in versatile, multifarious, and often surprising forms. Offering a new synthesis of intellectual and cultural developments, Invisible Hands is a landmark contribution to the history of the Enlightenment and eighteenth-century culture.

About The Author

Jonathan Sheehan is professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of The Enlightenment Bible: Translation, Scholarship, Culture. Dror Wahrman is the Ruth N. Halls Professor of History at Indiana University–Bloomington, as well as the Vigevani Chair in European Studies and dean of humanities at the Heb...
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Title:Invisible Hands: Self-organization And The Eighteenth CenturyFormat:HardcoverDimensions:384 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.3 inPublished:May 29, 2015Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226752054

ISBN - 13:9780226752051

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“Free markets; non-linear systems; chaotic dynamics: our world seems always at the mercy of uncertainty but still mysteriously orderly. Sheehan and Wahrman ingeniously locate the origins of our anxieties about self-organization in the busy, bruising world of the early Enlightenment. Invisible Hands is itself something of a miracle of organization, drawing together the histories of theology and botany, political economy and epistemology, mechanics and medicine, into an unsettling but strangely satisfying whole.”