Show Less

Foundations of Economic Evolution

A Treatise on the Natural Philosophy of Economics

  • New Horizons in Institutional and Evolutionary Economics series

Carsten Herrmann-Pillath

Buy Book in Print
Show Summary Details
You do not have access to this content

Chapter 6: Institutions

Carsten Herrmann-Pillath


The literature about the role of biological determinants in human life is mostly cast in terms of the biology/culture divide (for example Richerson and Boyd 2005; Mesoudi 2011). So far, I have referred to this notion, too, but I will now introduce a specification which completes the substantial revision of the use of the term ‘culture’ according to these views. I argue that humans are institutional animals, and assign a more limited place to culture. This more specific use of culture has already been introduced in the previous chapter: Basically, I refer the term to shared identities, that is, to the emergence of We–attitudes and We–modes, and to the emergence of group boundaries in networks. But shared identities only encompass a part of what makes human behaviour special in relation to other animals. I argue that this more encompassing phenomenon is institutions, following the arguments presented by John Searle (2005). Institutions are the core phenomenon that enables human phenotypic plasticity, in the particular sense of enabling humans to create entirely new forms of life which are not directly determined by their biological properties, though being subject to biological constraints, and being enabled by biological capabilities (see Boyer and Petersen 2012). These forms of life refer to life in groups, in particular, and how this life in groups changes individual behaviour.

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.

Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.

Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

Further information

or login to access all content.