Foundations of Economic Evolution

Foundations of Economic Evolution

A Treatise on the Natural Philosophy of Economics

New Horizons in Institutional and Evolutionary Economics series

Carsten Herrmann-Pillath

Chapter 3: Evolution

Carsten Herrmann-Pillath

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


The previous chapter established the general principles of evolution, which are based on the thermodynamics of information. This chapter aims at exploring specific aspects of evolutionary causation, which apply for living systems in particular. This corresponds to one general tendency in many scientific domains, especially in economics, to interpret the term ‘evolution’ in the sense of biology. Yet, this still allows for many different approaches, such as claiming ontological continuity between economic and biological evolution, while rejecting certain theoretical concepts more specific to the latter (for example Witt 2003), or elaborating on a ‘generalized Darwinism’ (Hodgson and Knudsen 2006b; Aldrich et al. 2008). Even when adopting an integrationist approach to biological and economic evolution, the problem with the biological use of the term is that there are many competing evolutionary theories even within biology, especially in the recent three decades, after many second thoughts came up regarding the so-called Neo-Darwinian ‘synthesis’ of classical Darwinism and population genetics (Hodgson 1997).

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