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The anatomy of emergence, with a focus upon capital formation

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

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Harper, David A. & Endres, Anthony M., 2012. "The anatomy of emergence, with a focus upon capital formation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 352-367.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:82:y:2012:i:2:p:352-367 DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2011.03.013
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
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    5. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Félix-Fernando Muñoz & María-Isabel Encinar, 2014. "Intentionality and the emergence of complexity: an analytical approach," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 317-334, April.
    3. Stańczyk-Hugiet Ewa, 2014. "Routines in the process of organizational evolution," Management, De Gruyter Open, vol. 18(2), pages 73-87, December.
    4. Muñoz, Félix & Encinar, María Isabel & Fernández-de-Pinedo, Nadia, 2014. "Intentionality and technological and institutional change: Implications for economic development," Working Papers in Economic Theory 2014/04, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain), Department of Economic Analysis (Economic Theory and Economic History).
    5. Dai, Shuanping, 2012. "The Emergence of Efficient Institutions and Social Interactions," MPRA Paper 47011, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Peter Lewin, 2014. "Hayek and Lachmann," Chapters,in: Elgar Companion to Hayekian Economics, chapter 8, pages 165-194 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    7. David Harper, 2014. "Property rights as a complex adaptive system: how entrepreneurship transforms intellectual property structures," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 335-355, April.

    More about this item

    Keywords

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

    JEL classification:

    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • B53 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Austrian
    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity
    • L23 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Organization of Production

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