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Stoelhorst Jan-Willem | Fellow Visitor
2012-04-01 - 2012-05-26 | Research area: Other
Generalised Darwinism and Institutional Change
There have been many attempts to develop evolutionary theories in the social sciences. A recent attempt in economics is the work on ‘generalized Darwinism’ (e.g. Aldrich et al., 2008; Hodgson, 2002; Hodgson & Knudsen, 2006, 2010; Stoelhorst, 2005, 2008a). This work assumes that, at a sufficiently high level of generality, biological and cultural evolution are not just analogous, but similar. In light of this premise, the purpose of the work on generalized Darwinism is twofold. The first purpose is to specify a meta-theory of evolution by generalizing the explanation of evolution developed in biology. The second purpose is to use the resulting meta-theory to develop middle-range theories of socio-economic phenomena. The work on generalized Darwinism has been under way for some ten years. While progress has been made on specifying a meta-theory of evolution, progress on applying the resulting meta-theory to specific socio-economic phenomena has been very limited. This project is motivated by this lack of progress on applying generalized evolutionary principles in economic theory. The premise of the project is that this lack of progress is largely due to the specific way in which proponents of generalized Darwinism have formulated their meta-theoretical framework. In particular, the adoption of the replicator-interactor distinction as the centrepiece of the framework by its most prominent advocates (Hodgson & Knudsen 2010) seems to hold back the development of fruitful middle-range theories. In light of this premise, the aim of the project is twofold: to specify a meta-theory of evolution that takes its starting point in evolutionary epistemology (e.g. Campbell, 1974; Plotkin, 1994), rather than the replicator-interactor distinction, and to apply this framework to the development of a theory of institutional change.