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A spontaneous order is a pattern or structure of items or elements whose very regularity is generated by the interaction of the elements themselves. Sometimes referred to as self-organizing systems, endogenous orders, or polycentric systems, such orders are not the result of explicit agreement, legislated design, or a direct outcome of biological instinct. Although spontaneous orders appear in both nature and society, this entry focuses only on the idea of spontaneous social orders. Diverse phenomena such as language, money, the division of labor, the common law, prices, rules and institutions, and society as a whole have been explained as spontaneously generated phenomena. The very possibility of such unintended and decentralized coordination challenges the commonplace assumption that any complex social pattern must be the result of ...

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