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Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Production

  • Sidney G. Winter

Production theory in the neoclassical tradition is strong on Abstract generality. Its high level of Abstraction tends to impede understanding of technological change, partly because its perspective on production differs so much from those of engineers, managers and technologists. A more grounded approach is needed for evolutionary economics, since evolutionary thinking sees questions of production as tightly and reciprocally connected with questions of coordination, incentives, and organizational knowledge, and is concerned above all with change. In this essay, the shortcomings of mainstream theory are identified and explained in a review of its historical development. The remainder of the paper sets forth a map for a production theory that reflects the key attributes of the productive knowledge. A discussion of spatial replication of productive activity provides a sharp contrast between the evolutionary and mainstream perspectives. The paper concludes with a discussion that places production theory within the broader framework of evolutionary economics and identifies some of the many research tasks on the agenda.

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Paper provided by Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy in its series LEM Papers Series with number 2002/27.

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Date of creation: 31 Dec 2002
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Handle: RePEc:ssa:lemwps:2002/27
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  1. Nelson, Richard R. & Winter, Sidney G., 1977. "In search of useful theory of innovation," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 36-76, January.
  2. Rosenberg, Nathan, 1969. "The Direction of Technological Change: Inducement Mechanisms and Focusing Devices," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(1), pages 1-24, Part I Oc.
  3. Dosi, Giovanni, 1982. "Technological paradigms and technological trajectories : A suggested interpretation of the determinants and directions of technical change," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 147-162, June.
  4. Atkinson, Anthony B & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1969. "A New View of Technological Change," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 79(315), pages 573-78, September.
  5. S.A. Lippman & R.P. Rumelt, 1982. "Uncertain Imitability: An Analysis of Interfirm Differences in Efficiency under Competition," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(2), pages 418-438, Autumn.
  6. Koopmans, Tjalling C, 1976. " Concepts of Optimality and Their Uses," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 78(4), pages 542-60.
  7. Winter, Sidney G, 1988. "On Coase, Competence, and the Corporation," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(1), pages 163-80, Spring.
  8. Dosi, Giovanni, 1997. "Opportunities, Incentives and the Collective Patterns of Technological Change," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(444), pages 1530-47, September.
  9. J. Stephen Lansing & James N. Kremer & Barbara B. Smuts, 1998. "System-Dependent Selection, Ecological Feedback, and the Emergence of Functional Structure in Ecosystems," Working Papers 98-01-014, Santa Fe Institute.
  10. Massimo Warglien & Alessandro Narduzzo & Elena Rocco, 1997. "Talking about routines in the field: the emergence of organizational capabiliies in a new cellular phone network company," CEEL Working Papers 9706, Cognitive and Experimental Economics Laboratory, Department of Economics, University of Trento, Italia.
  11. Romer, Paul, 1993. "Idea gaps and object gaps in economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 543-573, December.
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