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Processus évolutionnaires et institutions. Quelles alternatives à la rationalité parfaite ?

Listed author(s):
  • Éric Brousseau

[fre] Dans son texte de 1950 consacré à la controverse sur la théorie de la firme, Alchian apparaît comme un précurseur à trois titres. D'abord, il est l'un des inventeurs du principe d'« irréalisme méthodologique » qui fonde encore aujourd'hui la défense néo-classique. Peu importe que les firmes réelles maximisent leur prof it si cette hypothèse permet de décrire le comportement d'une population de firme. Ensuite, il fonde sa position sur un argument évolutionniste. Seule la logique du processus de sélection compte, pas celle du comportement des acteurs individuels. Enfin, Alchian suggère que le cadre institutionnel est finalement le déterminant essentiel des propriétés du système économique parce qu'il établit l'environnement de sélection. Bien que la démonstration d'Alchian ne soit pas exempte de critique - certes élaborées à la lumière des développements opérés par l'analyse économique au cours des cinquante dernières années -, les perspectives ouvertes par ce texte montrent les liens profonds qui existent entre trois courants analytiques contemporains généralement considérés comme des alternatives : le marginalisme, l'évolutionnisme et le néo-institutionnalisme. [eng] Evolutionary processes and institutions: what alternatives to perfect rationality? His 1950 contribution to the controversy on the theory of the firm makes of Alchian a precursor for three reasons. First, he is one of the inventors of the principle of "methodological unrealism" that continue to ground the neoclassical defense. Even if actual firms do not maximize profit, such an hypothesis can be satisfactory, if it enables theoreticians to describe the behavior of a population of firms. Second, Alchian's position is based on an evolutionary argument. The logic of individual behaviors is unimportant. Only the logic of the selection process matters. Third, Alchian suggests that the institutional framework is the determining factor of the properties of an economic system, because it sets the features of the selection process. Event if Alchian's arguments can be criticized today - especially because we benefit from 50 years of development of economics -, the opened prospect is wide. It points out the interrelationships among three essential contemporary school of thought, that are generally considered as strongly antagonistic: marginalism, evolutionary economics, and new-institutional economics.

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Article provided by Programme National Persée in its journal Revue économique.

Volume (Year): 51 (2000)
Issue (Month): 5 ()
Pages: 1185-1213

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Handle: RePEc:prs:reveco:reco_0035-2764_2000_num_51_5_410580
Note: DOI:10.3406/reco.2000.410580
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