IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Intentionality and the emergence of complexity: an analytical approach


  • Félix-Fernando Muñoz


  • María-Isabel Encinar



Emergence is a generic property that makes economies become complex. The simultaneous carrying out of agents’ intentional action plans within an economic system generates processes that are at the base of structural change and the emergence of adaptive complex systems. This paper argues that goals and intentionality are key elements of the structure of rational human action and are the origin of emergent properties such as innovation within economic complex systems. To deal with the locus and role of goals and intentionality in relation to the emergence of complexity we propose an analytical approach based on agents’ action plans. Action plans are open representations of the action projected by agents (as individuals or organizations), where the means (actions) and objectives (or goals) are not necessarily given, but produced by agents themselves. Copyright Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Suggested Citation

  • Félix-Fernando Muñoz & María-Isabel Encinar, 2014. "Intentionality and the emergence of complexity: an analytical approach," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 317-334, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:joevec:v:24:y:2014:i:2:p:317-334 DOI: 10.1007/s00191-014-0342-z

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Harry W. Richardson & Peter Gordon & James E. Moore II, 2005. "Introduction," Chapters,in: The Economic Impacts of Terrorist Attacks, chapter 1 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. Felin, Teppo & Foss, Nicolai J., 2009. "Organizational routines and capabilities: Historical drift and a course-correction toward microfoundations," Scandinavian Journal of Management, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 157-167, June.
    3. Langlois, Richard N., 2002. "Modularity in technology and organization," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 19-37, September.
    4. Bénédicte Vidaillet & V. D'Estaintot & P. Abécassis, 2005. "Introduction," Post-Print hal-00287137, HAL.
    5. Geoffrey Hodgson & Thorbjørn Knudsen, 2007. "Evolutionary Theorizing Beyond Lamarckism: a reply to Richard Nelson," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 17(3), pages 353-359, June.
    6. Georgy Levit & Uwe Hossfeld & Ulrich Witt, 2011. "Can Darwinism be “Generalized” and of what use would this be?," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 21(4), pages 545-562, October.
    7. J. Stan Metcalfe & John Foster & Ronnie Ramlogan, 2006. "Adaptive economic growth," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 30(1), pages 7-32, January.
    8. Brian Loasby, 2003. "Closed models and open systems," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(3), pages 285-306.
    9. Witt, Ulrich, 1996. "Innovations, Externalities and the Problem of Economic Progress," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 89(1-2), pages 113-130, October.
    10. María-Isabel Encinar & Félix-Fernando Muñoz, 2006. "On novelty and economics: Schumpeter’s paradox," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 255-277, August.
    11. Lane, David & Malerba, Franco & Maxfield, Robert & Orsenigo, Luigi, 1996. "Choice and Action," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 6(1), pages 43-76, February.
    12. Boulding, K E, 1991. "What Is Evolutionary Economics?," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 9-17, January.
    13. 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.
    14. Frey, Bruno S & Jegen, Reto, 2001. " Motivation Crowding Theory," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(5), pages 589-611, December.
    15. Sen, Amartya, 1993. "Internal Consistency of Choice," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(3), pages 495-521, May.
    16. Bhattacharyya, Aditi & Pattanaik, Prasanta K. & Xu, Yongsheng, 2011. "Choice, Internal Consistency And Rationality," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 27(02), pages 123-149, July.
    17. Cristiano Antonelli & Gianluigi Ferraris, 2011. "Innovation as an Emerging System Property: An Agent Based Simulation Model," Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, vol. 14(2), pages 1-1.
    18. Brian Loasby, 2012. "Building systems," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 22(4), pages 833-846, September.
    19. Caroline Gerschlager, 2012. "Agents of change," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 22(3), pages 413-441, July.
    20. Benassy, Jean-Pascal, 1986. "Macroeconomics: An Introduction to the Non-Walrasian Approach," Elsevier Monographs, Elsevier, edition 1, number 9780120864256 edited by Shell, Karl.
    21. Kurt Dopfer, 2011. "Evolution and Complexity in Economics Revisited," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2011-02, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
    22. Douglass C. North, 2005. "Introduction to Understanding the Process of Economic Change," Introductory Chapters,in: Understanding the Process of Economic Change Princeton University Press.
    23. Wagner, Richard E., 2012. "A macro economy as an ecology of plans," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 433-444.
    24. Harper, David A. & Endres, Anthony M., 2012. "The anatomy of emergence, with a focus upon capital formation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 352-367.
    25. Michael L. Katz & Carl Shapiro, 1994. "Systems Competition and Network Effects," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(2), pages 93-115, Spring.
    26. Richard Nelson, 2007. "Comment on: Dismantling Lamarckism: why descriptions of socio-economic evolution as Lamarckian are misleading, by Hodgson and Knudsen," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 17(3), pages 349-352, June.
    27. Ulrich Witt, 2006. "Evolutionary concepts in economics and biology," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 16(5), pages 473-476, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Muñoz, Félix & Encinar, María Isabel & Fernández-de-Pinedo, Nadia, 2014. "Intentionality and technological and institutional change: Implications for economic development," Working Papers in Economic Theory 2014/04, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain), Department of Economic Analysis (Economic Theory and Economic History).

    More about this item


    Intentionality; Action plans; Emergence of novelty ; Complexity; B41; B52; D89; O10;

    JEL classification:

    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology
    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • D89 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Other
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:spr:joevec:v:24:y:2014:i:2:p:317-334. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla) or (Rebekah McClure). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.