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The University of Alabama

UA Professor Receives Atlas Economic Research Foundation Award

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Dr. James Otteson, chair of the philosophy department at The University of Alabama, will be awarded the seventh in a series of prizes from the Fund for the Study of Spontaneous Orders at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation.

The $10,000 prize is for scholars working outside the traditional areas of economic study whose work is informed by an Austrian economic perspective. Atlas’s Fund for the Study of Spontaneous Order, supported by an anonymous donor, rewards and promotes the work of scholars that study the relevance of the spontaneous order to disciplines other than economics.

“The “spontaneous order” social theory of Austrian economics holds that large-scale human social institutions— like law, language, and even morality—are the unintentional result of numberless decisions made by individual actors,” Otteson said. “The individuals were not intending to create larger institutions, but their localized actions nevertheless did so.”

In his book “Adam Smith’s Marketplace of Life,” Otteson argues that spontaneous order social theory’s first systematic treatment was by Adam Smith in the 18th century, then went on to become a central theoretical tool in Austrian economics. He is working on a book in which he argues that the spontaneous-order theories developed during the Scottish Enlightenment shaped the Darwinian theory of evolution and some current research in linguistics, evolutionary psychology and experimental economics.

The award will be presented to Otteson in September at the George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Va.

Otteson is a College of Arts and Sciences Leadership Board Faculty Fellow. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and his master’s and doctoral degrees in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin and the University of Chicago, respectively.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.