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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Gowdy, John M. & Dollimore, Denise E. & Wilson, David Sloan & Witt, Ulrich, 2013. "Economic cosmology and the evolutionary challenge," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 90(S), pages 11-20.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:90:y:2013:i:s:p:s11-s20
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2012.12.009
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Roberto Cafferata, 2016. "Darwinist connections between the systemness of social organizations and their evolution," Journal of Management & Governance, Springer;Accademia Italiana di Economia Aziendale (AIDEA), vol. 20(1), pages 19-44, March.
    2. 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.
    3. 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 57-75.
    4. 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 128-140.
    5. Abatecola, Gianpaolo, 2014. "Research in organizational evolution. What comes next?," European Management Journal, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 434-443.
    6. Su, Tong-Yaa, 2016. "Competition between Firms in Economic Evolution: Its Characteristics and Differences to the Biological Sphere," MPRA Paper 72756, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Biglan, Anthony & Cody, Christine, 2013. "Integrating the human sciences to evolve effective policies," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 90(S), pages 152-162.
    8. Gowdy, John & Krall, Lisi, 2013. "The ultrasocial origin of the Anthropocene," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 137-147.
    9. 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 76-93.
    10. David Sloan Wilson, 2016. "Quality of Life from an Evolutionary Perspective," Applied Research in Quality of Life, Springer;International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies, vol. 11(2), pages 331-342, June.
    11. Stoelhorst, J.W. & Richerson, Peter J., 2013. "A naturalistic theory of economic organization," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 90(S), pages 45-56.

    More about this item

    Keywords

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

    JEL classification:

    • B11 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Preclassical (Ancient, Medieval, Mercantilist, Physiocratic)
    • B12 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Classical (includes Adam Smith)
    • B15 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • B40 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - General
    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General

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