- Ontological foundations for evolutionary economics: A Darwinian social ontology
- European Association of Evolutionary Political Economy annual conference 2008 (EAEPE 2008), Rome, Italy
- Book/source title
- Proceedings of the 2008 annual conference of the European Association of Evolutionary Political Economy (EAEPE 2008)
- Document type
- Conference contribution
- Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB)
- Amsterdam Business School Research Institute (ABS-RI)
The purpose of this paper is to further the project of generalized Darwinism by developing a social ontology on the basis of a combined commitment to ontological continuity and ontological commonality. Three issues that are central to the development of a social ontology are addressed: (1) the specification of units of analysis above the level of the individual, (2) the specification of the relationship between self-organization, developmental processes, and environmental selection as drivers of socio-economic evolution, (3) the nature and the role of agency in socio-economic change. It is shown how the explanatory logic and ontological commitments of generalized Darwinism help resolve these issues. Specifically, the paper builds, first, on the distinction between ‘units of selection of’ and ‘units of selection for’ that is central to the explanatory logic of generalized Darwinism, and second, on the distinction between within-group competition and between-group competition that is central to generalized Darwinism’s ontological commitment to multi-level selection processes. This leads to a social ontology in which (1) only individuals and groups of individuals are ‘units of selection of’, (2) agency is limited to individuals, (3) game-theoretic interactions between individuals establish the social rules that allow groups to self-organize into stable social structures, (4) these social rules become ‘units of selection for’ in between-group competition. The resultant view of economic change is of a bottom-up process in which individual action is the only driver of economic change, but in which both individuals and groups are seen as essential carriers of productive knowledge.
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