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Cognitive Evolution: Change and Stability of International Social Orders

Wednesday December 10, 2014, from 18:00 to 20:00
Room 24.112 - Mercè Rodoreda Building (1st Floor)
Emanuel Adler (University of Toronto)

This lecture will report on a book Prof. Adler is writing entitled Cognitive Evolution: Change and Stability of International Social Orders. It suggests an evolutionary theory, which, rather than borrowing by analogy from biological evolution, builds on “evolutionary epistemology” to provide a unique social explanation of the simultaneous occurrence of change and stability of social orders. Social orders are constituted by practices, which are contained and carried by communities of practice--configurations of a domain of knowledge that constitutes like-mindedness, a community of people that creates the social fabric of learning, and a shared practice that embodies the knowledge the community develops, shares, and maintains. Three social mechanisms-endogenous learning within, competition among, and innovation of, communities of practice--play a key role in the creative variation and selective diffusion and retention of social practices.

According to cognitive evolution theory, social orders evolve when communities of practice spread in time and space, the background knowledge of their selected practices becomes institutionalized, and their members’ expectations and dispositions preferentially survive. The book illustrates cognitive-evolution theory by drawing on three cases: (a) Europe’s post-World War II social order, b) the cyberspace order and (c) the corporation, whose invention led to the evolution of the economic corporate order.

Emanuel Adler is the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Chair of Israeli Studies and Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the European Academy of Sciences, Honorary Professor at the University of Copenhagen, and former editor of International Organization. Previously, he was Professor of International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His publications include books such as The Power of Ideology; Security Communities (with Michael Barnett); Communitarian International Relations; Convergence of Civilizations (with Federica Beverly Crawford, and Raffaella Del Sarto), International Practices (with Vincent Pouliot), and Israel in the World. Professor Adler’s interests include international practices and communities of practice, the evolution of international order, a constructivist reconsideration of strategic logic, including deterrence, European security institutions, international relations theory — in particular, constructivism, epistemic communities, security communities, and communities of practice — and Israel’s relations with the world.