The economic concept of evolution: self-organization or Universal Darwinism?

Journal of Economic Methodology 16 (4):377-391 (2009)
Somewhat surprisingly, evolutionary economists are far from agreeing upon the economic concept of evolution. The debate revolves around the question whether the mechanisms of variation, selection and retention are general principles of evolutionary processes, also valid in economics, or if economic evolution can be described by self-organization. The paper argues that self-organization is a useful concept, but has not yet fulfilled the aspiration to describe economic evolution as an endogenous process. In self-organization models important aspects, like novelty generation or the attribution of its economic quality, are introduced exogenously. In verbal descriptions however, even critics of general evolutionary principles sketch these processes in a way that is perfectly compatible with the universal principles. The paper thus argues that the controversy is mainly based on a misinterpretation of Universal Darwinism and tries to clarify the concept. It concludes that variation, selection and retention are in fact general evolutionary principles; as self-organization maybe is.
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