New Empirical Methods and Simulation Techniques
Edited by Pier Paolo Saviotti
Chapter 10: ‘Leaping Across the Mountains, Bounding Over the Hills’: Punctualism and Gradualism in Economic Development
Witold Kwasnicki What is a mode of development of evolutionary processes? In 1972 Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldridge published a paper on ‘Punctuated equilibria: an alternative to phyletic gradualism’, and since that time biologists have been engaged in vigorous discussion on two conﬂicting views of modes of natural evolution, namely gradualism and punctualism. Similar discussion can be noted in economics on modes of economic development in the presence of innovation. It seems that there is evidence that both kinds of development can be identiﬁed in the sphere of socioeconomic processes. We will use the simulation approach to support our suggestions that: 1. Average characteristics of development can be considered as continuously changing (so it can support gradualism) but the frontier of development is far from being continuous, and from that point of view evolution ought to be considered as punctuated. Using the metaphor of adaptive landscape we can show that biological population is able to evolve (drift) from the local adaptive landscape down the valley and from there gradually evolve up a higher hill (that is, the evolution can be considered as gradual). But drift is very improbable in the socio-economic evolution mainly because of speciﬁcity of socio-economic processes (especially the possibility of pre-evaluation of inventions and using in practice only those which allow for potential progress). Therefore economic evolution is not gradual but ought to be seen as a combination of gradual development (in the phase of climbing the local peak in the adaptive landscape)...
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