Factions in Evolutionary Economics

14 October 2006 at 11:17 am Leave a comment

| Nicolai Foss |

Evolutionary economics has emerged as the perhaps most successful modern heterodox approach. One possible reason for this relative success is that modern EE, in contrast to Austrian economics, old institutional economics, and (partly) post Keynesian economics, embraces formal model building and econometrics. Like the so-called orthodox economics that modern EE is a self-styled alternative to, EE is by no means monolithic. Although evolutionary economists go (roughly) to the same conferences and publish in pretty much the same journals, several factions are discernible within the overall EE community — such as

  1. the”Italo-Wharton-Columbia” faction (Dosi, Marengo, Malerba, Orsenigo, Levinthal, Winter, Nelson);
  2. the “old institutionalist-realist-evolutionists” (Hodgson, Lawson), mainly located in UK and US, and strong in economic geography; and
  3. the German evolutionists, nowadays primarily represented by Ulrich Witt, the Director of the Evolutionary Economics Group at the Max-Planck-Institut für Ökonomik in Jena.

One thing that differentiates the the third group from the two other ones is a stronger commitment to methodological individualism (at least the second group seems to explicitly reject MI). The overriding emphasis on routines and habits that characterizes groups 1) and 2) cannot be found in the works of the German evolutionists. Entrepreneurship is much more strongly emphasized here. There is a suspicion of biological analogies. Economic evolution is conceptualized in terms of the emergence and dissemination of novelty, rather than in terms of the evolutionary triad of variation, heredity and selection. It is an approach that is closer to Austrian economics; hence, here at O&M, we are sympathetic to German evolutionism. For a nice sampling, check out the Papers on Economics and Evolution series that is published by the MPI in Jena.

Entry filed under: - Foss -, Entrepreneurship, Papers.

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Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein, Organizing Entrepreneurial Judgment: A New Approach to the Firm (Cambridge University Press, 2012).
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