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What Is Evolutionary Economics?

As is well-known, in the history of economics many scholars have advocated a marriage between the two concepts of economics and evolution. However, today we still face a gap between the so-called "mainstream" and "heterodox economics", with evolutionary economics counting to the latter. I feel that this is a deplorable state of the art, because the use of evolutionary concepts has been increasing in all fields of economics in the recent two decades, mainstream or sidestream. In the recent decade, some of the nobel laureates in economics may be regarded as major contributors to an emerging evolutionary paradigm of economics, like Douglass North, George Akerlof, or most recently Daniel Kahneman. Time is ripe to pull all those threads together. This website is one attempt to do so.

I think that there is an emerging consensus that evolutionary economics is the science of the evolution of knowledge embodied in economic systems, with the latter being tantamount to human societies. In my view, therefore, evolutionary economics is not simply a special field of economics (like theory of foreign trade or industrial economics). Evolutionary economics adopts a radically different view of "the economic problem": The traditional and most influential definition of economics is that economics analyzes the allocation of scarce resources to given ends: in contrast, I think that the fundamental economic problem is ignorance and how to use and create knowledge to guide human action. As we shall see, since knowledge is a very broad and encompassing concept, accordingly evolutionary economics is an emerging academic field integrating many different disciplines into a new paradigm like standard economics, biology, sociology or even parts of physics.

This website is an introduction into the concepts, methods and principles of evolutionary economics (henceforth, EE) as treated in my book "Grundriß der Evolutionsökonomik" which you can find below. The content is mainly based on the glossary of that book, and I add many of the links in that book which offer additional information via web resources to the user.
If you wish to get access to the book, please enter here

The website is organized as a network of concepts, with many different layers and interconnections, which will evolve in the next years following the tracks of the evolution of evolutionary economics. The network does not define a neat and complete internal logic or hierarchy, but a fuzzy set of semantic fields for each concept. This is a mirror of the object of evolutionary economics: We envisage the economy as an open, dynamic system replete with novelty and surprise, and we therefore think that the corresponding theory has to be of a similar structure. The user of the site can find many different ways through the labyrinth, thus reaching her own experience and understanding of EE.

The user of this site will start with the next page "system". From there, she or he can move ahead at his or her will. Every concept can be further differentiated into constituent concepts of the same level. These concepts can be further explored by moving to a higher or a lower level of generality. Between the layers, users can move back and forth and will realize that depending on context many concepts are linked across the layers. Understanding these complex contexts, is the main venue to learn how to use the single concepts. In some cases, users will realize that there is no "upper level" of a concepts. These are the most fundamental concepts of EE. In every entry, you find hyperlinks in the section "semantic field" and a larger variety of other conceptual relations indicated in the text by a ">".

Although the site is a network of concepts, in the explanations I refer to many hypotheses and methods of evolutionary economics. In most of these cases, we do not explain the methods here in detail, because there are many other places in the WWW where the user will find detailed expositions. Therefore, the user is urged to follow the links that I have included in this site.

Finally, in many pages I add a basic reference to what I think will emerge to become a corpus of classics of EE. This is constantly updated.

I add a file introducing a seminar on evolutionary economics that I give at Zhejiang University, China, in March 2003. This shows how the glossary is related to the structure of my German book mentioned above: Hangzhou Seminar

If you like to know more about the current state of EE in academia, I recommend to visit the following sites.

First, there is a more entertaining introduction that emphasizes evolution and growth:
Birchall's site

A professional academic site is maintained by Esben Sloth Andersen, which emphasises the interpretation of EE as economics of innovation and market dynamics - my interpretation is much broader in scope and epistemological claims (which, however, is not shared by all Evolutionary Economists):

Second, the heterodox criticism of the economic mainstream has now a special forum in the web:
Post-autistic Economics

Third, there are some academic associations with different foci worldwide:Schumpeter Society
Japan Association for Evolutionary Economics
European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy
Association for Evolutionary Economics

Fourth, there are related research agendas as, for example:
Evolution and the Social Sciences
Knowledge Management
The Study of Complex Systems

You can now move to the network of concepts.
We begin with a conceptual sitemap

  • A conceptual sitemap
  • A-F
  • G-N
  • O-Z
  • book online
  • chair

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Andrea Anger-Sankowsky
Phone: +49 (0)2302 / 926-572

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