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The evolutionary and non-Darwinian economics of Joseph Schumpeter


  • Geoffrey M. Hodgson

    () (The Judge Institute of Management Studies, University of Cambridge, Trumpington St, Cambridge CB2 1AG, UK)


In a recent paper, Matthias Kelm (1997) accepts that `Schumpeter's definition of evolution does not contain any Darwinian mechanism such as natural selection or any other biological concept' and that Schumpeter `made no such attempt' to apply `Darwinian theory to economic evolution'. However, Kelm goes on to argue that Schumpeter would have been a Darwinian if circumstances were different. It is argued here that this contention is highly implausible because Schumpeter explicitly rejected biological metaphors and analogies in economics. Furthermore, Schumpeter misunderstood Darwinism. In his attempt to `interpret' Schumpeter as a Darwinian, Kelm himself misrepresents the three core principles of Darwinism. In addition Kelm's paper contains several misunderstandings and misrepresentations of the assessment of Schumpeter made by Hodgson (1993). This present response concludes that Schumpeter was indeed one of the greatest economists of the twentieth century and that he may legitimately be described as an `evolutionary economist'. However, he cautioned strongly against the use of biological metaphors in economics and there is no legitimate basis for describing his approach as Darwinian.

Suggested Citation

  • Geoffrey M. Hodgson, 1997. "The evolutionary and non-Darwinian economics of Joseph Schumpeter," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 7(2), pages 131-145.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:joevec:v:7:y:1997:i:2:p:131-145

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    Cited by:

    1. Thomas Grebel, 2011. "Innovation and Health," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 14375.
    2. John Finch, 2000. "Is post-Marshallian economics an evolutionary research tradition?," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 7(3), pages 377-406.
    3. Richard Arena, 2017. "Schumpeter and Schumpeterians on competition: some policy implications," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 27(1), pages 161-186, January.
    4. John Finch & Nicola Dinnei, 2001. "Capturing Knightian Advantages of Large Business Organisations Through Group Decision-making Processes," International Journal of the Economics of Business, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(3), pages 379-403.
    5. Christian Schubert, 2014. "“Generalized Darwinism” and the quest for an evolutionary theory of policy-making," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 24(3), pages 479-513, July.
    6. Brendan Markey-Towler, 2016. "Law of the jungle: firm survival and price dynamics in evolutionary markets," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 26(3), pages 655-696, July.
    7. ., 2013. "Schumpeter and the dynamics of capitalism: the driving force of business innovation," Chapters,in: Competition, Diversity and Economic Performance, chapter 4, pages 67-82 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    8. Heshmati, Almas & Lenz-Cesar, Flávio, 2013. "Determinants and Policy Simulation of Firms Cooperation in Innovation," IZA Discussion Papers 7487, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item


    Schumpeter ; Evolutionary economics ; Darwinism;

    JEL classification:

    • B31 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought: Individuals - - - Individuals


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