Handbook of Economic Organization
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Handbook of Economic Organization

Integrating Economic and Organization Theory

Edited by Anna Grandori

This comprehensive and groundbreaking Handbook integrates economic and organization theories to help elucidate the design and evolution of economic organization. Economic organization is regarded both as a subject of inquiry and as an emerging disciplinary field in its own right, integrating insights from economics, organization theory, strategy and management, economic sociology and congnitive psychology. The contributors, who share this integrated approach, are distinguished scholars at the productive peak in their fields. Each original, state-of-the art chapter not only addresses foundational issues, but also identifies key issues for future research.
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Chapter 9: Organizational adaptation and evolution: Darwinism versus Lamarckism?

Geoffrey M. Hodgson


An ongoing debate within organization studies concerns the roles of individual adaptation and competitive selection in the evolution of populations of firms. On one side, Michael Hannan and John Freeman (1989) emphasize the role of selection and stress the de facto limits of individual firm adaptability. Conventionally their ‘selectionist’ position is described as ‘Darwinian’, whereas opposing views that emphasize adaptability are described as ‘Lamarckian’. It is argued here that this labelling is misconceived. Darwin himself believed in the Lamarckian inheritance of acquired characters. Even if Lamarckian inheritance occurs, evolution requires selectionist mechanisms as well. And for detailed reasons the application of the Lamarckian notion to organizational evolution is problematic. By contrast, abstract Darwinian principles do apply, and Darwinism emphasizes adaptation and development as well as selection. The careful use of properly defined Darwinian principles not only helps to avoid earlier pitfalls but also fruitfully guides ongoing enquiry.

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