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Complexity, the Santa Fe approach, and non-equilibrium economics


  • W. Brian Arthur

    (Santa Fe Institute for the Study of Complex Systems and PARC)


Over the last twenty or more years a different way of doing economics has been slowly emerging. It goes by several names: complexity economics, agent-based computational modeling, generative economics, Santa Fe economics, and each of these has its own style, its own followers, and its own nuances. What I want to do in this paper is to recount my own involvement with what has happened, and the part that the Santa Fe Institute has played. And I also want to ask what this new movement in economics is: what complexity economics really is. After two centuries of studying equilibria – patterns of consistency that call for no further behavioral adjustments – economists are beginning to study the unfolding of patterns in the economy. That is, we are starting to study the economy out of equilibrium. This way of doing economics calls for an algorithmic approach. When viewed out of equilibrium, the economy reveals itself not as deterministic, predictable and mechanistic; but as process-dependent, organic and evolving.

Suggested Citation

  • W. Brian Arthur, 2010. "Complexity, the Santa Fe approach, and non-equilibrium economics," History of Economic Ideas, Fabrizio Serra Editore, Pisa - Roma, vol. 18(2), pages 149-166.
  • Handle: RePEc:hid:journl:v:18:y:2010:2:6:p:149-166

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    Cited by:

    1. Heise, Arne & Thieme, Sebastian, 2016. "The Short Rise and Long Fall of heterodox Economics in germany After the 1970s: Explorations in a Scientific Field of Power and Struggle," MPRA Paper 80022, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Maggi,Elena & Vallino,Elena, 2017. "An Agent-Based Simulation of Urban Passenger Mobility and Related Policies. The Case Study of an Italian Small City," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 201708, University of Turin.
    3. Gräbner, Claudius, 2016. "From realism to instrumentalism - and back? Methodological implications of changes in the epistemology of economics," MPRA Paper 71933, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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