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Economic Emergence: an Evolutionary Economic Perspective

  • John Foster
  • J. Stan Metcalfe

The standard neoclassical approach to economic theorizing excludes, by definition, economic emergence and the related phenomenon of entrepreneurship. We explore how the most economic of human behaviours, entrepreneurship, came to be largely excluded from mainstream economic theory. In contrast, we report that evolutionary economists have acknowledged the importance of understanding emergence and we explore the advances that have been made in this regard. We go on to argue that evolutionary economics can make further progress by taking a more 'naturalistic' approach to economic evolution. This requires that economic analysis be fully embedded in complex economic system theory and that associated understandings as to how humans react to states of uncertainty be explicitly dealt with. We argue that 'knowledge,' because of the existence of uncertainty is, to a large degree 'conjectural' and, thus, is closely linked to our emotional states. Our economic behaviour is also influenced by the reality that we, and the systems that we create, are dissipative structures. Thus, we introduce the notions of 'energy gradients' and 'knowledge gradients' as essential concepts in understanding economic emergence and resultant economic growth.

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Paper provided by Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography in its series Papers on Economics and Evolution with number 2011-12.

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Date of creation: Jun 2011
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Handle: RePEc:esi:evopap:2011-12
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  1. 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.
  2. George A. Akerlof, 2009. "How Human Psychology Drives the Economy and Why It Matters," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1175-1175.
  3. John Foster, 2000. "Competitive selection, self-organisation and Joseph A. Schumpeter," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 10(3), pages 311-328.
  4. Uwe Cantner & Jean-Luc Gaffard & Lionel Nesta, 2008. "Schumpeterian perspectives on innovation, competition and growth," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 18(3), pages 291-293, August.
  5. 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.
  6. Freeman, Chris & Louca, Francisco, 2002. "As Time Goes By: From the Industrial Revolutions to the Information Revolution," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199251056, March.
  7. John Foster, 2005. "From simplistic to complex systems in economics," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(6), pages 873-892, November.
  8. Witt, Ulrich, 2009. "Propositions about novelty," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 70(1-2), pages 311-320, May.
  9. Jon Elster, 1998. "Emotions and Economic Theory," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 47-74, March.
  10. Mokyr, Joel, 2005. "Long-Term Economic Growth and the History of Technology," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 17, pages 1113-1180 Elsevier.
  11. Veblen, Thorstein, 1898. "Why Economics is not an Evolutionary Science," History of Economic Thought Articles, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, vol. 12.
  12. J. Stanley Metcalfe, 2007. "Alfred Marshall and the General Theory of Evolutionary Economics," History of Economic Ideas, Fabrizio Serra Editore, Pisa - Roma, vol. 15(1), pages 81-110.
  13. Brian J. Loasby, 2007. "A Cognitive Perspective on Entrepreneurship and the Firm," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(7), pages 1078-1106, November.
  14. Till Grune-Yanoff & Paul Schweinzer, 2008. "The roles of stories in applying game theory," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(2), pages 131-146.
  15. Ulrich Witt, 2006. "Evolutionary Economics," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2006-05, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
  16. Steven N. Durlauf & Andros KOURTELLOS & Chih Ming Tan, 2007. "Are Any Growth Theories Robust?," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0703, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  17. Marshall, Alfred, 1890. "The Principles of Economics," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number marshall1890.
  18. Kaldor, Nicholas, 1972. "The Irrelevance of Equilibrium Economics," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 82(328), pages 1237-55, December.
  19. Kevin D. Hoover & Stephen J. Perez, 2004. "Truth and Robustness in Cross-country Growth Regressions," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 66(5), pages 765-798, December.
  20. Galina Vereshchagina & Hugo A. Hopenhayn, 2009. "Risk Taking by Entrepreneurs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(5), pages 1808-30, December.
  21. Ulrich Witt, 2007. "Novelty and the Bounds of Unknowledge in Economics," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2007-07, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
  22. Brian J. Loasby, 2011. "Uncertainty and imagination, illusion and order: Shackleian connections," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 35(4), pages 771-783.
  23. John Foster, 2010. "Energy, Aesthetics and Knowledge in Complex Economic Systems," Discussion Papers Series 404, School of Economics, University of Queensland, Australia.
  24. John Foster & Phillip Wild, 1999. "Detecting self-organisational change in economic processes exhibiting logistic growth," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 109-133.
  25. Ulrich Witt, 2004. "On the proper interpretation of 'evolution' in economics and its implications for production theory," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(2), pages 125-146.
  26. Ana C. Santos, 2011. "Behavioural and experimental economics: are they really transforming economics?," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 35(4), pages 705-728.
  27. Alain Alcouffe & Thomas Kuhn, 2004. "Schumpeterian endogenous growth theory and evolutionary economics," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 14(2), pages 223-236, 06.
  28. J. Stan Metcalfe, 2010. "Technology and economic theory," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 34(1), pages 153-171, January.
  29. J. Stanley Metcalfe, 2010. "Complexity and emergence in economics: the road from Smith to Hayek (via Marshall and Schumpeter)," History of Economic Ideas, Fabrizio Serra Editore, Pisa - Roma, vol. 18(2), pages 45-76.
  30. Kurt Dopfer & John Foster & Jason Potts, 2004. "Micro-meso-macro," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 263-279, 07.
  31. Ulrich Witt, 2010. "Economic Behavior - Evolutionary vs. Behavioral Perspectives," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2010-17, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
  32. Foster, John, 1993. "Economics and the Self-Organisation Approach: Alfred Marshall Revisited," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(419), pages 975-91, July.
  33. Foster, John & Wild, Phillip, 1999. "Econometric Modelling in the Presence of Evolutionary Change," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 23(6), pages 749-70, November.
  34. Franco Malerba & Richard Nelson & Luigi Orsenigo & Sidney G. Winter, 2001. "History-Friendly Models: an Overview of the Case of the Computer Industry," Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, vol. 4(3), pages 6.
  35. Armen A. Alchian, 1950. "Uncertainty, Evolution, and Economic Theory," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 58, pages 211.
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