IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Real-World Economics Today:The New Complexity, Co-ordination and Policy


  • Wolfram Elsner


More realistic economics has to start out from the most basic socio-economic phenomena and processes, i.e. dilemma-prone interdependencies and strong uncertainty among agents that have become ubiquitous phenomena in the world today. In the reality of the “new” economy these are represented by functional and spatial fragmentation of value-added chains, global de-regulation and disembedding of the most powerful economic agents, on one hand, and increasing complexity and high integration of goods and services and net-based tele-IC-technologies on the other hand. All these rather new phenomena entail ubiquitous actual or potential co-ordination failure, either in the form of conventional “market failure”, with a complete mutual blockage of action, or of “wrong” co-ordination, or technological “lock-in”. Both forms are indicative of an insufficient capacity of the co-ordinated action required. In contrast, capability of sustainable innovative action in a broad sense requires new forms of co-ordination beyond “market” and “hierarchy”. Economics thus has to be defined more than ever as a science of effective co-ordination and the generation of innovative and sustainable collective action capacity. The global corporate economy has developed individualist arrangements to cope with that new co-ordination problem, such as local clusters and hub&spoke networks, which all have severe shortcomings. Against this background, the paper develops a setting with ubiquitous direct interdependencies, net-externalities, “strategic” strong uncertainty and ubiquitous (latent) social-dilemma problems. It discusses the possibility of an ideal decentralized and spontaneous co-ordination through emergent institutionalized collective action, specifically of “well-governed” network co-operation. In conclusion, it is argued that only a hybrid system of networks together with a new public policy role, supporting collective learning and emergent institutional co-ordination, i.e. an “interactive” and “institutional” policy approach, is capable of solving the co-ordination problems of the “new” economy.

Suggested Citation

  • Wolfram Elsner, 2005. "Real-World Economics Today:The New Complexity, Co-ordination and Policy," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 63(1), pages 19-53.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:rsocec:v:63:y:2005:i:1:p:19-53
    DOI: 10.1080/00346760500047909

    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. Fudenberg, Drew & Levine, David, 1998. "Learning in games," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(3-5), pages 631-639, May.
    2. Tiziana Casciaro, 2003. "Determinants of governance structure in alliances: the role of strategic, task and partner uncertainties," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(6), pages 1223-1251, December.
    3. Ritzberger, Klaus, 2002. "Foundations of Non-Cooperative Game Theory," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199247868.
    4. Breschi, Stefano & Malerba, Franco, 2001. "The Geography of Innovation and Economic Clustering: Some Introductory Notes," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(4), pages 817-833, December.
    5. Perraton, Jonathan, 2001. "The Global Economy--Myths and Realities: Review Article," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(5), pages 669-684, September.
    6. John Accordino & Wolfram Elsner, 2000. "Conversion Planning in Two Military Shipbuilding Regions: Hampton Roads, Virginia, and Bremen, Germany," International Regional Science Review, , vol. 23(1), pages 48-65, January.
    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. Elsner, Wolfram & Hocker, Gero & Schwardt, Henning, 2009. "Simplistic vs. Complex Organization: Markets, Hierarchies, and Networks in an 'Organizational Triangle'," MPRA Paper 14315, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Wolfram Elsner, 2010. "The process and a simple logic of ‘meso’. Emergence and the co-evolution of institutions and group size," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 20(3), pages 445-477, June.
    3. Wolfram Elsner, 2007. "Why Meso? On “Aggregation” and “Emergence”, and Why and How the Meso Level is Essential in Social Economics," Forum for Social Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(1), pages 1-16, January.
    4. Elsner, Wolfram & Schwardt, Henning, 2015. "The (dis-)embedded firm: Complex structure and dynamics in inter-firm relations. Adding institutionalization as a Veblenian dimension to the Coase-Williamson approach – An emerging triangular organiza," MPRA Paper 67193, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Elsner, Wolfram, 2015. "Policy Implications of Economic Complexity and Complexity Economics," MPRA Paper 63252, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Elsner, Wolfram & Heinrich, Torsten, 2009. "A simple theory of 'meso'. On the co-evolution of institutions and platform size--With an application to varieties of capitalism and 'medium-sized' countries," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 38(5), pages 843-858, October.


    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:taf:rsocec:v:63:y:2005:i:1:p:19-53. 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: (Chris Longhurst). 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.