Chapter 13: A Philosophical Perspective on Contemporary Evolutionary Economics
Geoffrey M. Hodgson1 13.1 INTRODUCTION Although there are many precursors, the modern wave of evolutionary economics began in the 1980s, particularly after the publication of Richard Nelson’s and Sidney Winter’s (1982) Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change. In the following years much of the work in this genre was applied and policy-oriented. Theoretical developments have been significant, but there has not yet been convergence on an integrated approach (Silva and Teixeira, 2009). It is partly for this reason that there has been an intensifying debate since the 1990s on evolutionary principles and the underlying ontological assumptions of evolutionary economics. The aim of this chapter is to examine the philosophical communalities and divergences that have been revealed in the literature. Seven sections follow. Section 13.2 sketches the historical background. It notes that despite the looseness and imprecision of the term ‘evolution’, there is an identifiable international network or ‘college’ of ‘evolutionary economists’ whose work can be placed under philosophical scrutiny. Section 13.3 considers the philosophical differences in broad terms and directs attention to ontology as the basis of much relevant agreement and dispute. Section 13.4 considers a number of ontological communalities in evolutionary economics. It is followed by two sections on ontological divergences. Of these, section 13.6 outlines the ontology of complex population systems. This lays the ground for the discussion of generalized Darwinism in section 13.7. The final section shows that some of the key disputes within evolutionary economics derive not from incompatible propositions but from different levels of abstraction within...
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