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Evolution and Economic Complexity

Edited by J. Stanley Metcalfe and John Foster

Dedicated to the goal of furthering evolutionary economic analysis, this book provides a coherent scientific approach to deal with the real world of continual change in the economic system. Expansive in its scope, this book ranges from abstract discussions of ontology, analysis and theory to more practical discussions on how we can operationalize notions such as ‘capabilities’ from what we understand as ‘knowledge’. Simulation techniques and empirical case studies are also used.
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Chapter 6: Knowledges, Specialization and Economic Evolution: Modelling the Evolving Division of Human Time

Esben Sloth Andersen


Esben Sloth Andersen1 INTRODUCTION To study economic evolution we need a clear answer to the question: ‘What evolves?’. If we want to cover only limited aspects of the overall process of economic evolution, adequate answers are ‘technologies’, ‘strategies’ or ‘routines’. But for researchers who want to cover larger parts of the history of economic evolution, it is helpful to try out the more general answer that what evolves is ‘knowledge’. Unfortunately, this is very imprecise and it also leaves open serious ontological and methodological problems (Potts 2000, pp. 58–60). So Boulding’s (1978, p. 33) more cautious ‘glimmering’ of an answer seems more appropriate: ‘what evolves is something very much like knowledge’. This gives some direction for research, but it also emphasizes the urgent need for a further specification. Not all types of knowledge show the same degree of evolution. In this respect there is a radical difference between the basic knowledge about how to behave economically and the concrete knowledge about how to produce and exchange particular economic goods. The former type seems to be pretty universal for Homo sapiens, so it is not the basic economizing knowledge that shows permanent evolution. A more likely candidate for evolvable knowledge is found in close relation to the concrete economic activities of production and exchange. Here we do not, however, find knowledge at the Platonic level of abstraction, where it is clearly separated from the workers and their activities. To emphasize this fact we shall introduce the concept...

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