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Mainstream Efforts to Tell a Better Story - Natural Selection as a Misplaced Metaphor: The Problem of Corporate Power


  • John Watkins


Darwin uses natural selection in two different senses. Struggle for existence refers to rivalry; survival of the fittest refers to surviving environmental changes. The mainstream vision of economic harmony requires casting natural selection as survival of the fittest. There is no struggle, no conflict. Mainstream economics depicts the selector in the evolutionary game as the firm itself. The mainstream vision requires banishing corporate power and the technological basis of power. For Veblen, corporate power is central. The existence of power implies that among firms, selection assumes the form of struggle. Evolutionary game theory breaks with the mainstream vision; firms are rivals. Evolutionary game theory, however, lacks the "stories" that provide a mapping between theory and reality, something institutionalists are well-positioned to provide. Stories are necessary for understanding corporate power, its origins, its use, and its limitations.

Suggested Citation

  • John Watkins, 2010. "Mainstream Efforts to Tell a Better Story - Natural Selection as a Misplaced Metaphor: The Problem of Corporate Power," Journal of Economic Issues, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(4), pages 991-1008.
  • Handle: RePEc:mes:jeciss:v:44:y:2010:i:4:p:991-1008
    DOI: 10.2753/JEI0021-3624440407

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    Cited by:

    1. Torsten Heinrich & Henning Schwardt, 2013. "Institutional Inertia and Institutional Change in an Expanding Normal-Form Game," Games, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(3), pages 1-28, August.
    2. Heinrich, Torsten, 2016. "The Narrow and the Broad Approach to Evolutionary Modeling in Economics," MPRA Paper 75797, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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