Evolution, Organization and Economic Behavior

Evolution, Organization and Economic Behavior

Edited by Guido Buenstorf

This new and original collection of papers focuses on the intersection of three strands of research: evolutionary economics, behavioral economics, and management studies. Combining theoretical and empirical contributions, the expert contributors demonstrate that the intersection of these fields provides a rich source of opportunities enabling researchers to find more satisfactory answers to questions that (not only evolutionary) economists have long been tackling. Topics discussed include individual agents and their interactions; the behavior and development of firm organizations; and evolving firms and their broader implications for the development of regions and entire economies.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Guido Buenstorf

Subjects: economics and finance, behavioural and experimental economics, evolutionary economics


Guido Buenstorf EVOLUTIONARY ECONOMICS AS BEHAVIORAL ECONOMICS OF INDIVIDUALS AND ORGANIZATIONS Evolutionary economics is behavioral economics – it studies the behavior of individuals and organizations in economic contexts. Evolutionary economists share parts of their research agenda with (other) behavioral economists and with management scholars, and the more the three communities interact, the more they can each learn from the others. These three premises underlie the present collection. That evolutionary economics is behavioral economics is by no means a new idea, but has been proposed – and practiced – for more than 100 years before these lines were written. The starting point of evolutionary economics can be dated to 1898, the year when Thorstein Veblen posed his famous question: ‘Why is economics not an evolutionary science?’. Veblen’s programmatic essay chastised economics for not engaging in a causal analysis of economic processes, which to him was the essence of evolutionary thinking (Veblen, 1898; see also Hodgson, 1998). To do so presupposed studying the behavior of human agents, who after all are ‘the motor forces of the processes of economic development’ (Veblen, 1898, p. 388). For Veblen, the rational choice approach of neoclassical economics emerging at the time – portraying human agents as ‘lightning calculators of pleasures and pains’, as he sardonically put it (p. 389) – would not do the job. His alternative vision of economic agency was derived from contemporary instinct psychology (see Cordes, 2007, and the references therein). In this view, the individual agent’s desires, thoughts and behavioral dispositions are not exogenously given and...