IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Albert O. Hirschman on Economic Evolution

  • Antonio G. CALAFATI


    (Universita' Politecnica delle Marche, Dipartimento di Economia)

In this paper it will be argued that Albert O. Hirschman’s research work is a remarkable instance of a methodological shift that began in the Fifties, and of which there seems to be scarce awareness nowadays notwithstanding its relevance for some of the issues that are in the agenda of contemporary economics. In his work - so as in the work of other economists of his generation - systems theory was used as a general methodology to frame the study of structural change in the economy. The methodological questions raised by the study of ‘economic evolution’, extensively discussed nowadays, were very much in evidence in economics already in the Fifties in the theory of economic development. Contrary to what it often said, attempts to build a theoretical interpretation of economic change were in fact conducted within this research programme. Indeed, the focus of Hirschman’s research activity has been on the explanation of the relationship between the evolution of the social system and the economic process, and systems theory has been the methodological perspective he has relied upon in the study of this relationship. He was certainly not alone while walking along this pathway. Yet, more than other contemporary economists, Hirschman addressed, although with some elusiveness, a fundamental issue in the study of economic evolution, and namely the micro-foundation of economic change. Most of his research ought to be properly understood as an attempt to put forward micro-founded (meta-)theory of economic evolution. To discuss the whole corpus of Hirschman’s research work would be a too demanding task. The aim of this paper is in fact more modest. It intends to call attention to the methodology that Hirschman elaborated to address the issue of explaining ‘economic evolution’ – and to interpret it as a response to a class of why-questions that have constantly been prominent in the agenda of economists in the last decades.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
File Function: First version, 2000
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Universita' Politecnica delle Marche (I), Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche e Sociali in its series Working Papers with number 132.

in new window

Length: 21
Date of creation: Apr 2000
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:anc:wpaper:132
Contact details of provider: Postal: Piazzale Martelli, 8, 60121 Ancona
Phone: +39 071 220 7100
Fax: +39 071 220 7102
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:anc:wpaper:132. 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: (Maurizio Mariotti)

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 references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link 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 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.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.