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The anatomy of emergence, with a focus upon capital formation

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  • Harper, David A.
  • Endres, Anthony M.
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    Abstract

    Emergence is a unifying theme of both evolutionary economics and complex systems theory. In spite of this centrality, emergence in economics has not been subject to an extensive critical analysis. This paper remedies this deficit. We identify several conditions that economic patterns (i.e. rule-systems, structures) must satisfy to qualify as emergent: (1) material realization (emergent patterns are realized in physical structures and processes); (2) coherence (pattern is not a mere aggregate but a systemic whole); (3) non-distributivity (pattern possesses global properties absent from its parts); (4) structure dependence (systemic properties depend upon connective structure). These four core features are common to all forms of emergence in economics. Evolutionary economic systems also exhibit extra-strength versions of emergence, which require that patterns possess one or more additional features: (5) genuine novelty; (6) unpredictability in principle; and (7) irreducibility. We introduce three basic forms of emergence that occur in economic systems—minimal, diachronic and synchronic emergence—and apply these ideas to capital formation at all levels of economic order. The economy-wide capital structure exhibits strongly emergent properties (both diachronic and synchronic) that depend on its structural and functional organization; it is not a mere aggregate of capital goods. Within the realm of capital phenomena, we also compare the distinguishing characteristics of emergent and spontaneous (self-organizing) orders. We provide a case study of the iPhone as an emergent capital pattern to illustrate conditions (1)–(7) above and the different types of emergence.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

    Volume (Year): 82 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 2 ()
    Pages: 352-367

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:82:y:2012:i:2:p:352-367

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jebo

    Related research

    Keywords: Emergence; Evolutionary dynamics; Complexity; Capital; Production; Innovation; Spontaneous order;

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    References

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    1. Endres, Anthony M. & Harper, David A., 2011. "Carl Menger And His Followers In The Austrian Tradition On The Nature Of Capital And Its Structure," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 33(03), pages 357-384, September.
    2. Buchanan, James M. & Vanberg, Viktor J., 1991. "The Market as a Creative Process," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 7(02), pages 167-186, October.
    3. Searle, John R., 2005. "What is an institution?," Journal of Institutional Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 1(01), pages 1-22, June.
    4. David Colander & Richard Holt & Barkley Rosser, 2004. "The changing face of mainstream economics," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(4), pages 485-499.
    5. Daniel B. Klein, 2006. "RINKONOMICS: A WINDOW ON SPONTANEOUS ORDER -super-1," Economic Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 26(4), pages 64-67, December.
    6. Hodgson, Geoffrey M., 1997. "Economics and the return to Mecca: The recognition of novelty and emergence," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 8(4), pages 399-412, October.
    7. Richard Holt & J. Barkley Rosser & David Colander, 2011. "The Complexity Era in Economics," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 23(3), pages 357-369.
    8. Witt, Ulrich, 2009. "Propositions about novelty," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 70(1-2), pages 311-320, May.
    9. Wolfram Elsner, 2010. "The process and a simple logic of ‘meso’. Emergence and the co-evolution of institutions and group size," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 20(3), pages 445-477, June.
    10. J. Barkley Rosser, 1999. "On the Complexities of Complex Economic Dynamics," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(4), pages 169-192, Fall.
    11. Joshua M. Epstein & Robert L. Axtell, 1996. "Growing Artificial Societies: Social Science from the Bottom Up," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262550253, January.
    12. Hodgson, Geoffrey M. & Knudsen, Thorbjørn, 2010. "Generative replication and the evolution of complexity," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 12-24, July.
    13. Harper, David A. & Endres, Anthony M., 2010. "Capital as a layer cake: A systems approach to capital and its multi-level structure," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 74(1-2), pages 30-41, May.
    14. Schumpeter, Joseph A., 1947. "The Creative Response in Economic History," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 7(02), pages 149-159, November.
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    Cited by:
    1. Dai, Shuanping, 2012. "The Emergence of Efficient Institutions and Social Interactions," MPRA Paper 47011, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Martin, Ron & Sunley, Peter, 2012. "Forms of emergence and the evolution of economic landscapes," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 338-351.

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