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Economists on Darwin's theory of social evolution and human behaviour

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  • A. Marciano

Abstract

The purpose of this article is to analyse the way economists interested in social and economic evolution cite, mention or refer to Darwin. We focus on the attitude of economists towards Darwin's theory of social evolution – an issue he considered as central to his theory. We show that economists refer to and mention Darwin as a biologist and neglect or ignore his theory of social and cultural evolution. Three types of reference are identified: first, economists view and quote Darwin as having borrowed concepts from classical political economists, Malthus and Smith. Darwin is then mentioned to emphasize the existence of economic theories of social evolution. Second, economists refer to and cite Darwin from the perspective of the use of biological concepts in social sciences. Darwin's biological theories are then equated with those of Spencer. From these two perspectives, Darwin's theory of social evolution is ignored and Darwin considered as a biologist exclusively. Third, economists acknowledge the existence of Darwin's general (biological and social) theory of evolution. Darwin is then considered and quoted as a biologist and a social evolutionist.

Suggested Citation

  • A. Marciano, 2006. "Economists on Darwin's theory of social evolution and human behaviour," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2005-21, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
  • Handle: RePEc:esi:evopap:2005-21
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Hirshleifer, Jack, 1985. "The Expanding Domain of Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(6), pages 53-68, December.
    2. Van R. Potter, 1962. "Bridge to the Future: The Concept of Human Progress," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 38(1), pages 1-8.
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    8. Geoffrey M. Hodgson, 1999. "Evolution and Institutions," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 1481.
    9. Marciano, Alain & Pelissier, Maud, 2000. "The Influence of Scottish Enlightenment on Darwin's Theory of Cultural Evolution," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 22(02), pages 239-249, June.
    10. Ronald H. Coase, 2000. "The new institutional economics," Chapters,in: Institutions, Contracts and Organizations, chapter 1 Edward Elgar Publishing.
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    14. Marciano, A. & Pelissier, M., 1999. "La theorie de l'evolution culturelle de Hayek a la lumiere de La Descendance de l'homme de Darwin," G.R.E.Q.A.M. 99c08, Universite Aix-Marseille III.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Darwin; social evolution; evolutionary economics; bioeconomics;

    JEL classification:

    • A11 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Role of Economics; Role of Economists
    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary

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