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The Nature and Units of Social Selection

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  • G. Hodgson
  • T. Knudsen

Abstract

On the basis of the technical definition of selection developed by George Price (1995), we describe two forms of selection that commonly occur at the social level, subset selection and generative selection. Both forms of selection are abstract and general, and therefore also incomplete; both leave aside the question of explaining the selection criterion and why entities possess stable traits. However, an important difference between the two kinds of selection is that generative selection can accommodate an explanation of how new variation is created, while subset selection cannot. An evolutionary process involving repeated cycles of generative selection can, in principle, continue indefinitely because imperfect replication generates new variation along the way, whereas subset selection reduces variation and eventually grinds to a halt. Even if the two kinds of selection examined here are very different, they share a number of features. First, neither subset selection nor generative selection implies improvement. Neither kind of selection necessarily lead to efficiency or imply systematic outcomes. Second, both subset selection and generative selection can lead to extremely rapid effects in a social population. Third, in the social domain, both generative selection and subset selection involve choice and preference. Neither form of selection necessarily excludes intentionality. In concluding the article, we single out a challenge for future research in identifying the role of various units of culture in selection processes and the multiple levels at which social selection processes take place.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Max Planck Institute of Economics, Evolutionary Economics Group in its series Papers on Economics and Evolution with number 2004-24.

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Length: 22 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:esi:evopap:2004-24

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Keywords: Subset selection; generative selection; generalized selection; Price equation;

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References

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  1. Geoffrey M. Hodgson, 2002. "Darwinism in economics: from analogy to ontology," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 12(3), pages 259-281.
  2. Thorbj�rn Knudsen, 2004. "General selection theory and economic evolution: The Price equation and the replicator/interactor distinction," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(2), pages 147-173.
  3. Hodgson, Geoffrey M. & Knudsen, Thorbjorn, 2004. "The complex evolution of a simple traffic convention: the functions and implications of habit," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 19-47, May.
  4. Ulrich Witt, 2004. "On the proper interpretation of 'evolution' in economics and its implications for production theory," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(2), pages 125-146.
  5. Geoffrey M. Hodgson, 2003. "The Mystery of the Routine. The Darwinian Destiny of An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change," Revue économique, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 54(2), pages 355-384.
  6. Agarwal, Rajshree & Echambadi, Raj & Franco, April M. & Sarkar, M. B., 2002. "Knowledge Transfer through Congenital Learning: Spin-Out Generation, Growth and Survival," Working Papers 02-0101, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Business.
  7. Hodgson, Geoffrey M. & Knudsen, Thorbjorn, 2006. "Why we need a generalized Darwinism, and why generalized Darwinism is not enough," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 1-19, September.
  8. Thorbj, rn Knudsen, 2002. "Economic selection theory," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 12(4), pages 443-470.
  9. Winter, Sidney G, 1971. "Satisficing, Selection, and the Innovating Remnant," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 85(2), pages 237-61, May.
  10. Wilfred Amaldoss & Robert J. Meyer & Jagmohan S. Raju & Amnon Rapoport, 2000. "Collaborating to Compete," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 19(2), pages 105-126, November.
  11. Geoffrey Hodgson & Thorbjørn Knudsen, 2004. "The firm as an interactor: firms as vehicles for habits and routines," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 281-307, 07.
  12. Henrich, Joseph, 2004. "Cultural group selection, coevolutionary processes and large-scale cooperation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 3-35, January.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Tim Cochrane & James Maclaurin, 2012. "Evolvability and progress in evolutionary economics," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 14(2), pages 101-114, July.
  2. G. Buenstorf, 2005. "How Useful Is Universal Darwinism as a Framework to Study Competition and Industrial Evolution?," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2005-02, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Evolutionary Economics Group.
  3. Hodgson, Geoffrey M., 2010. "Darwinian coevolution of organizations and the environment," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(4), pages 700-706, February.
  4. Kurt Dopfer, 2012. "The origins of meso economics," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 22(1), pages 133-160, January.
  5. Carsten Herrmann-Pillath, 2014. "Naturalizing Institutions: Evolutionary Principles and Application on the Case of Money," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), Justus-Liebig University Giessen, Department of Statistics and Economics, vol. 234(2-3), pages 388-421, April.
  6. Waśniewski, Krzysztof, 2010. "Emergence of alternative capital markets in developing countries as a process of institutional change," MPRA Paper 26681, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  7. Christian Schubert, 2009. "Darwinism in Economics and the Evolutionary Theory of Policy-Making," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2009-10, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Evolutionary Economics Group.
  8. Muñoz, Félix-Fernando & Encinar, María-Isabel & Cañibano, Carolina, 2011. "On the role of intentionality in evolutionary economic change," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 193-203, September.
  9. Howard Aldrich & Geoffrey Hodgson & David Hull & Thorbjørn Knudsen & Joel Mokyr & Viktor Vanberg, 2008. "In defence of generalized Darwinism," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 18(5), pages 577-596, October.
  10. Wilfred Dolfsma, 2010. "Social systems evolving—reviewing Leydesdorff’s the knowledge-based economy," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 20(2), pages 313-319, April.
  11. J.S Metcalfe, 2004. "Accounting for Evolution: An Assessment of the Population Method," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2004-21, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Evolutionary Economics Group.

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