Rethinking Economic Evolution

Rethinking Economic Evolution

Essays on Economic Change and its Theory

Ulrich Witt

Modern economies never come to rest. From institutions to activities of production, trade, and consumption, everything is locked in processes of perpetual transformation – and so are our daily lives. Why and how do such transformations occur? What can economic theory tell us about these changes and where they might lead? Ulrich Witt’s book discusses why evolutionary concepts are necessary to answer such questions. While economic evolution is in many respects unique, it nonetheless needs to be seen within the broader context of natural evolution. By exploring this complex relationship, Rethinking Economic Evolution demonstrates the significance of an evolutionary economic theory.

Chapter 7: Propositions about novelty

Ulrich Witt

Subjects: economics and finance, evolutionary economics


The emergence of novelty is a ubiquitous feature in science, technology, and economic life. It is the most crucial input to the growth of human knowledge. At the same time, novelty is one of the most amorphous concepts in scientific thought. Theorizing about novelty and its emergence faces notorious problems. This paper explores why this is so and what can be done to deal in a more systematic fashion with novelty. The notion of degrees of novelty is introduced, and its relationship with the concept of uncertainty is discussed. The result of the inquiry are summarized by a number of hypotheses.

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