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The nature and units of social selection

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  • Geoffrey Hodgson

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  • Thorbjørn Knudsen

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Abstract

On the basis of the technical definition of selection developed by George Price (1995), we describe two forms of selection that commonly occur at the social level, subset selection and generative selection. Both forms of selection are abstract and general, and therefore also incomplete; both leave aside the question of explaining the selection criterion and why entities possess stable traits. However, an important difference between the two kinds of selection is that generative selection can accommodate an explanation of how new variation is created, while subset selection cannot. An evolutionary process involving repeated cycles of generative selection can, in principle, continue indefinitely because imperfect replication generates new variation along the way, whereas subset selection reduces variation and eventually grinds to a halt. Even if the two kinds of selection examined here are very different, they share a number of features. First, neither subset selection nor generative selection implies improvement. Neither kind of selection necessarily lead to efficiency or imply systematic outcomes. Second, both subset selection and generative selection can lead to extremely rapid effects in a social population. Third, in the social domain, both generative selection and subset selection involve choice and preference. Neither form of selection necessarily excludes intentionality. In concluding the article, we single out a challenge for future research in identifying the role of various units of culture in selection processes and the multiple levels at which social selection processes take place.
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Suggested Citation

  • Geoffrey Hodgson & Thorbjørn Knudsen, 2006. "The nature and units of social selection," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 16(5), pages 477-489, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:joevec:v:16:y:2006:i:5:p:477-489
    DOI: 10.1007/s00191-006-0024-6
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Geoffrey Hodgson & Thorbjørn Knudsen, 2004. "The firm as an interactor: firms as vehicles for habits and routines," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 281-307, July.
    2. Wilfred Amaldoss & Robert J. Meyer & Jagmohan S. Raju & Amnon Rapoport, 2000. "Collaborating to Compete," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 19(2), pages 105-126, November.
    3. Hodgson, Geoffrey M. & Knudsen, Thorbjorn, 2004. "The complex evolution of a simple traffic convention: the functions and implications of habit," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 19-47, May.
    4. Ulrich Witt, 2004. "On the proper interpretation of 'evolution' in economics and its implications for production theory," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(2), pages 125-146.
    5. Henrich, Joseph, 2004. "Cultural group selection, coevolutionary processes and large-scale cooperation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 3-35, January.
    6. Geoffrey M. Hodgson, 2003. "The Mystery of the Routine. The Darwinian Destiny of An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change," Revue économique, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 54(2), pages 355-384.
    7. Hodgson, Geoffrey M. & Knudsen, Thorbjorn, 2006. "Why we need a generalized Darwinism, and why generalized Darwinism is not enough," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 1-19, September.
    8. Agarwal, Rajshree & Echambadi, Raj & Franco, April M. & Sarkar, M. B., 2002. "Knowledge Transfer through Congenital Learning: Spin-Out Generation, Growth and Survival," Working Papers 02-0101, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Business.
    9. Thorbj, rn Knudsen, 2002. "Economic selection theory," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 12(4), pages 443-470.
    10. Sidney G. Winter, 1971. "Satisficing, Selection, and the Innovating Remnant," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 85(2), pages 237-261.
    11. Thorbjørn Knudsen, 2004. "General selection theory and economic evolution: The Price equation and the replicator/interactor distinction," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(2), pages 147-173.
    12. Michael D. Cohen & Paul Bacdayan, 1994. "Organizational Routines Are Stored as Procedural Memory: Evidence from a Laboratory Study," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 5(4), pages 554-568, November.
    13. Sidney G. Winter & Gabriel Szulanski, 2001. "Replication as Strategy," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 12(6), pages 730-743, December.
    14. Geoffrey M. Hodgson, 2002. "Darwinism in economics: from analogy to ontology," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 12(3), pages 259-281.
    15. Geoffrey M. Hodgson, 2001. "Is Social Evolution Lamarckian or Darwinian?," Chapters,in: Darwinism and Evolutionary Economics, chapter 6 Edward Elgar Publishing.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Kurt Dopfer, 2011. "Mesoeconomics: A Unified Approach to Systems Complexity and Evolution," Chapters,in: Handbook on the Economic Complexity of Technological Change, chapter 13 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. Howard Aldrich & Geoffrey Hodgson & David Hull & Thorbjørn Knudsen & Joel Mokyr & Viktor Vanberg, 2008. "In defence of generalized Darwinism," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 18(5), pages 577-596, October.
    3. Herrmann-Pillath Carsten, 2014. "Naturalizing Institutions: Evolutionary Principles and Application on the Case of Money," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 234(2-3), pages 388-421, April.
    4. G. Buenstorf, 2005. "How Useful Is Universal Darwinism as a Framework to Study Competition and Industrial Evolution?," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2005-02, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
    5. Hodgson, Geoffrey M., 2010. "Darwinian coevolution of organizations and the environment," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(4), pages 700-706, February.
    6. Wilfred Dolfsma, 2010. "Social systems evolving—reviewing Leydesdorff’s the knowledge-based economy," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 20(2), pages 313-319, April.
    7. repec:krk:eberjl:v:5:y:2017:i:2:p:143-157 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Muñoz, Félix-Fernando & Encinar, María-Isabel & Cañibano, Carolina, 2011. "On the role of intentionality in evolutionary economic change," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 193-203, September.
    9. Owen, John M., 2016. "Global power shifts and the future of democracy: An evolutionary approach, with special attention to China," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Global Governance SP IV 2016-108, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
    10. J.S Metcalfe, 2004. "Accounting for Evolution: An Assessment of the Population Method," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2004-21, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
    11. Waśniewski, Krzysztof, 2010. "Emergence of alternative capital markets in developing countries as a process of institutional change," MPRA Paper 26681, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Tim Cochrane & James Maclaurin, 2012. "Evolvability and progress in evolutionary economics," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 14(2), pages 101-114, July.
    13. Kurt Dopfer, 2012. "The origins of meso economics," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 22(1), pages 133-160, January.
    14. Krzysztof Waśniewski, 2015. "Discretionary freedom of choice and risk in alternative capital markets," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 39(3), pages 573-605, June.
    15. Christian Schubert, 2009. "Darwinism in Economics and the Evolutionary Theory of Policy-Making," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2009-10, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Subset selection; Generative selection; Generalized selection; Price equation; B25; B52; D20; D83; L20;

    JEL classification:

    • B25 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary; Austrian; Stockholm School
    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • D20 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - General
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • L20 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - General

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