The Mystery of the Routine. The Darwinian Destiny of An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change
The three core Darwinian principles of variety, inheritance and selection are found in Nelson and Winter’s Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change (1982). Is the application of these core Darwinian principles purely analogical, or does it also relate to ontological communalities between social and biological evolution? Why do Nelson and Winter describe their theory as “Lamarckian” despite this strong Darwinian content? This “Lamarckian” inclination is related to their imperfect and inconsistent definitions of their core concept of “routine”. It is argued here that a routine must be treated as a genotype rather than a (behavioural) phenotype. Following Winter (1987), it is also argued that the use of Darwinian principles in economics relates to general features that are common to both social and biological systems. This permits consideration of the routine as a replicator in a broad Darwinian analysis. A definition of replication is taken from the recent literature on cultural evolution and applied to the key concepts of (individual) habit and (organisational) routine. An ontologically-grounded Darwinian and evolutionary economics leads us to a more detailed discussion of the mechanisms of replication, as well as the sources of variety and the processes of selection.
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