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Darwinism, causality and the social sciences


  • Geoffrey Hodgson


Recently the degree to which 'evolutionary economics' does or should involve Darwinian principles has come under debate. This essay builds on previous arguments that Darwinism has a potentially wide application to socioeconomic evolution, which does not involve biological reductionism. It is argued that at the core of Darwinism are presuppositions concerning causality and causal explanation. Contrary to widespread belief, these presuppositions do not downgrade or ignore human intentionality: they simply require that it too is in principle subject to causal explanation. Neither are these presuppositions 'deterministic' or 'mechanistic', at least by some prominent meanings of these terms. Furthermore, the presupposition of causal determination does not necessarily exclude or include stochastic or probabilistic determination.

Suggested Citation

  • Geoffrey Hodgson, 2004. "Darwinism, causality and the social sciences," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(2), pages 175-194.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:11:y:2004:i:2:p:175-194 DOI: 10.1080/13501780410001694118

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Blaug,Mark, 1997. "Economic Theory in Retrospect," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521577014, March.
    2. Bernard Walters & David Young, 1999. "Is Critical Realism the Appropriate Basis for Post Keynesianism?," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 22(1), pages 105-123, September.
    3. Downward, Paul, 2000. "A Realist Appraisal of Post-Keynesian Pricing Theory," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(2), pages 211-224, March.
    4. Marina Colonna & Harald Hagemann, 1995. "The Economics of F.A. Hayek," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, volume 0, number 101.
    5. Kilpatrick, Andrew & Lawson, Tony, 1980. "On the Nature of Industrial Decline in the UK," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(1), pages 85-102, March.
    6. Runde, Jochen, 1998. "Assessing Causal Economic Explanations," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 50(2), pages 151-172, April.
    7. Baert, Patrick, 1996. "Realist Philosophy of the Social Sciences and Economics: A Critique," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(5), pages 513-522, September.
    8. Stephanie Blankenburg & Clive Lawson & Tony Lawson & Paul Lewis & Stephen Pratten & Jochen Runde, 2002. "Introduction," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 26(6), pages 679-681, November.
    9. Hodgson, Geoff, 1989. "Institutional Rigidities and Economic Growth," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 13(1), pages 79-101, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Robert, Verónica & Yoguel, Gabriel, 2016. "Complexity paths in neo-Schumpeterian evolutionary economics, structural change and development policies," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 3-14.
    2. Sylvie Geisendorf, 2009. "The economic concept of evolution: self-organization or Universal Darwinism?," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(4), pages 377-391.
    3. Pavel Pelikan, 2011. "Evolutionary developmental economics: how to generalize Darwinism fruitfully to help comprehend economic change," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 21(2), pages 341-366, May.
    4. Jack Vromen, 2008. "Ontological issues in evolutionary economics: The debate between Generalized Darwinism and the Continuity Hypothesis," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2008-05, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
    5. 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).
    6. repec:spr:joevec:v:27:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s00191-017-0512-x is not listed on IDEAS
    7. 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.
    8. Christoph Heinzel, 2013. "Schumpeter and Georgescu-Roegen on the foundations of an evolutionary analysis," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 37(2), pages 251-271.
    9. Jürgen Essletzbichler & David L. Rigby, 2010. "Generalized Darwinism and Evolutionary Economic Geography," Chapters,in: The Handbook of Evolutionary Economic Geography, chapter 2 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    10. Jack Vromen, 2011. "Heterogeneous Economic Evolution: A Different View on Darwinizing Evolutionary Economics," Chapters,in: The Elgar Companion to Recent Economic Methodology, chapter 15 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    11. Gual, Miguel A. & Norgaard, Richard B., 2010. "Bridging ecological and social systems coevolution: A review and proposal," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(4), pages 707-717, February.
    12. Georg Schwesinger, 2013. "Natural and Economic Selection - Lessons from the Evo-Devo and Multilevel Selection Debate," Jena Economic Research Papers 2013-014, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    13. Kerschner, Christian & Ehlers, Melf-Hinrich, 2016. "A framework of attitudes towards technology in theory and practice," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 126(C), pages 139-151.


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