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The Mystery of the Routine. The Darwinian Destiny of An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change

  • Geoffrey M. Hodgson

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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Article provided by Presses de Sciences-Po in its journal Revue économique.

Volume (Year): 54 (2003)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 355-384

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Handle: RePEc:cai:recosp:reco_542_0355
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  1. Michael D. Cohen & Roger Burkhart & Giovanni Dosi & Massimo Egidi & Luigi Marengo & Massimo Warglien & Sidney Winter & with comments by Benjamin Coriat, 1995. "Routines and Other Recurring Action Patterns of Organizations: Contemporary Research Issues," Working Papers 95-11-101, Santa Fe Institute.
  2. Richard R. Nelson & Sidney G. Winter, 2002. "Evolutionary Theorizing in Economics," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(2), pages 23-46, Spring.
  3. Jack J. Vromen, 2001. "The Human Agent in Evolutionary Economics," Chapters, in: Darwinism and Evolutionary Economics, chapter 9 Edward Elgar.
  4. Nicolao Bonini & Massimo Egidi, 1999. "Cognitive traps in individual and organizational behavior : some empirical evidence," Revue d'Économie Industrielle, Programme National Persée, vol. 88(1), pages 153-186.
  5. Arthur J. Robson, 2001. "Why Would Nature Give Individuals Utility Functions?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(4), pages 900-929, August.
  6. Geoffrey M. Hodgson, 2002. "Darwinism in economics: from analogy to ontology," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 12(3), pages 259-281.
  7. Nathalie Lazaric, 2000. "The role of routines, rules and habits in collective learning: some epistemological and ontological considerations," Post-Print hal-00457133, HAL.
  8. Richard R. Nelson, 1995. "Recent Evolutionary Theorizing about Economic Change," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(1), pages 48-90, March.
  9. Becker, Gary S, 1976. "Altruism, Egoism, and Genetic Fitness: Economics and Sociobiology," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 817-26, September.
  10. Hirshleifer, Jack, 1977. "Economics from a Biological Viewpoint," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(1), pages 1-52, April.
  11. Arthur J. Robson, 2001. "The Biological Basis of Economic Behavior," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(1), pages 11-33, March.
  12. Geoffrey M. Hodgson, 2001. "Is Social Evolution Lamarckian or Darwinian?," Chapters, in: Darwinism and Evolutionary Economics, chapter 6 Edward Elgar.
  13. Jack Hirshleifer, 1977. "Economics from a Biological Viewpoint," UCLA Economics Working Papers 087, UCLA Department of Economics.
  14. Winter, Sidney G, 1971. "Satisficing, Selection, and the Innovating Remnant," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 85(2), pages 237-61, May.
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