Economics in the Shadows of Darwin and Marx

Economics in the Shadows of Darwin and Marx

Essays on Institutional and Evolutionary Themes

Geoffrey M. Hodgson

Economics in the Shadows of Darwin and Marx examines the legacies of these two giants of thought for the social sciences in the twenty-first century.

Chapter 11: The Nature and Replication of Routines

Geoffrey M. Hodgson

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology, evolutionary economics, history of economic thought, institutional economics


In our evolutionary theory, these routines play the role that genes play in biological evolutionary theory. They are a persistent feature of the organism and determine its possible behavior (though actual behavior is determined also by the environment); they are heritable in the sense that tomorrow’s organisms generated from today’s (for example, by building a new plant) have many of the same characteristics, and they are selectable in the sense that organisms with certain routines may do better than others, and, if so, their relative importance in the population (industry) is augmented over time. Richard Nelson and Sidney Winter, An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change (1982) 11.1 INTRODUCTION Routines are vital to all organizations and their significance is widely appreciated.1 It is important to understand both how they can be built and how they can be changed. Such awareness is essential to any analysis of how knowledge is retained and transferred, for the development of business strategy, and for the creation of policies to encourage more beneficial business practices. Detailed empirical investigation is essential in this regard, but detailed taxonomic studies based on empirical evidence are relatively rare. One reason why empirical investigations have so far remained rather limited is that the conceptual specification of a routine remains obscure. Greater conceptual precision is an essential precondition of fruitful empirical enquiry. This chapter attempts to illuminate the concept of the routine, by citing relevant insights from philosophy, social theory and psychology, and by focusing on some milestone contributions in this area....

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