Mark Blaug: Rebel with Many Causes

Mark Blaug: Rebel with Many Causes

Edited by Marcel Boumans and Matthias Klaes

This collection of eminent contributions discusses the ideas and works of Mark Blaug, who has made important and often pioneering contributions to economic history, economic methodology, the economics of education, development economics, cultural economics, economic theory and the history of economic thought. Besides these assessments of Blaug’s influence and impact in these fields, this volume also contains a selection of personal portraits which depict him as a colleague, a friend and an opponent. Blaug was also a voracious reader and prolific writer, which is clearly evidenced by the comprehensive bibliography.

Chapter 9: Competition as an evolutionary process: Mark Blaug and evolutionary economics

Jack Vromen

Subjects: economics and finance, cultural economics, economics of education, history of economic thought, methodology of economics

Extract

Sympathy for evolutionary economics was one of the things Mark Blaug and I shared. In Blaug (1998), which is an extended version of his better-known Blaug (1997a), Blaug explicitly states that he sees the (at the time) recent work in evolutionary economics as one of the most hopeful and fruitful developments in economics. After my Vromen (1995), which allotted a prominent place to Nelson and Winter’s (1982) evolutionary economics, I for my part continued to work on contested topics and issues in Nelson and Winter-type evolutionary economics. Although some of this work was critical, it was based on the presupposition that these topics and issues are interesting enough to be subjected to critical scrutiny. Thus on this subject, that evolutionary economics narrowly understood is a promising alternative to ‘orthodox’ economics, Mark and I were in broad agreement. Not so with other attempts to connect evolution and economics in a meaningful way. Here our views diverged. Blaug failed to see much merit in evolutionary game-theoretic analyses, whereas I believed that such analyses could be illuminating. Blaug’s dislike of game theory tout court, not just of evolutionary game theory, was clearly related to his scathing critique of the dominance of ‘ugly’ formalism in mainstream economics. At the end of the chapter I will have a few positive things to say about formal modelling in economics. I will link this to the ‘formal theorizing’ part in Nelson and Winter (1982).

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