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 8: Novelty and the bounds of unknowledge in economics

Ulrich Witt

Subjects: economics and finance, evolutionary economics


Economic development and growth are driven by the emergence of new technologies, new products and services, new institutions, new policies, and so on. Important though it is, the emergence of novelty is not well understood. Epistemological and methodological problems make it a difficult research topic. They imply a 'bound of unknowledge' (Shackle) for economic theorizing wherever novelty occurs in economic life. To make progress, this paper takes stock of the problems. The methodological consequences for casual explanations and the modelling of economics dynamics are discussed, and some possibilities for positively theorizing about novelty are outlined.

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