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Economic cosmology and the evolutionary challenge

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  • Gowdy, John M.
  • Dollimore, Denise E.
  • Wilson, David Sloan
  • Witt, Ulrich

Abstract

The intellectual histories of economics and evolutionary biology are closely intertwined because both subjects deal with living, complex, evolving systems. Because the subject matter is similar, contemporary evolutionary thought has much to offer to economics. In recent decades theoretical biology has progressed faster than economics in understanding phenomena like hierarchical processes, cooperative behavior, and selection processes in evolutionary change. This paper discusses three very old “cosmologies” in Western thought, how these play out in economic theory, and how evolutionary biology can help evaluate their validity and policy relevance. These cosmologies are: (1) “natural man” as a rational, self-sufficient, egotistical individual, (2) competition among individuals can lead to a well-functioning society, and (3) there exists an ideal optimal state of nature. These correspond to Colander et al. (2004) “holy trinity of orthodox economics”, rationality, greed, and equilibrium. It is argued below that current breakthroughs in evolutionary biology and neuroscience can help economics go beyond these simple cosmologies.

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Bibliographic Info

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

Volume (Year): 90 (2013)
Issue (Month): S ()
Pages: S11-S20

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:90:y:2013:i:s:p:s11-s20

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

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Keywords: Competition and cooperation; Economic man; Evolutionary economics; History of economic thought; Multilevel selection; Spontaneous order;

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Cited by:
  1. Johnson, Dominic D.P. & Price, Michael E. & Van Vugt, Mark, 2013. "Darwin's invisible hand: Market competition, evolution and the firm," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 90(S), pages S128-S140.
  2. Manapat, Michael L. & Nowak, Martin A. & Rand, David G., 2013. "Information, irrationality, and the evolution of trust," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 90(S), pages S57-S75.
  3. John Gowdy & Lisi Krall, 2014. "Agriculture as a major evolutionary transition to human ultrasociality," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 16(2), pages 179-202, July.
  4. Stoelhorst, J.W. & Richerson, Peter J., 2013. "A naturalistic theory of economic organization," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 90(S), pages S45-S56.
  5. Biglan, Anthony & Cody, Christine, 2013. "Integrating the human sciences to evolve effective policies," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 90(S), pages S152-S162.
  6. Wilson, James & Hill, J. & Kersula, M. & Wilson, C.L. & Whitsel, L. & Yan, L. & Acheson, J. & Chen, Y. & Cleaver, C. & Congdon, C. & Hayden, A. & Hayes, P. & Johnson, T. & Morehead, G. & Steneck, R. &, 2013. "Costly information and the evolution of self-organization in a small, complex economy," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 90(S), pages S76-S93.
  7. Gowdy, John & Krall, Lisi, 2013. "The ultrasocial origin of the Anthropocene," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 137-147.

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