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Beyond the hype: the value of evolutionary theorizing in economics

Schulz, Armin W. (2013) Beyond the hype: the value of evolutionary theorizing in economics. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 43 (1). pp. 46-72. ISSN 1552-7441

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Abstract

In this paper, I consider the recent resurgence of "evolutionary economics"-the idea that evolutionary theory can be very useful to push forward key debates in economics-and assess the extent to which it rests on a plausible foundation. To do this, I first distinguish two ways in which evolutionary theory can, in principle, be brought to bear on an economic problem-namely, evidentially and heuristically-and then apply this distinction to the three major hypotheses that evolutionary economists have come to defend: the implausibility of rational choice theory as an account of economic rationality, the idea that firms are autonomous economic agents, and the need for a more dynamic, less equilibrium-focused economic methodology. In each of these cases, I conclude negatively: the relevant evolutionary considerations neither suggest interesting and novel hypotheses to investigate further (the hallmark of heuristic devices) nor are backed up by the needed data to constitute genuine evidence. I end by distinguishing this criticism of evolutionary economics from others that have been put forward in the literature: in particular, I make clear that, unlike those of other critics, the arguments of this paper are based on epistemic-not structural-considerations and therefore leave more room for a plausible form of evolutionary economics to come about in the future.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © The Author
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Sets: Departments > Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Rights: http://www.lse.ac.uk/library/usingTheLibrary/academicSupport/OA/depositYourResearch.aspx
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2013 14:55
URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/48857/

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