Can Darwinism be “Generalized” and of what use would this be?

Regular Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00191-011-0235-3

Cite this article as:
Levit, G.S., Hossfeld, U. & Witt, U. J Evol Econ (2011) 21: 545. doi:10.1007/s00191-011-0235-3


It has been suggested that, by generalizing Darwinian principles, a common foundation can be derived for all scientific disciplines dealing with evolutionary processes, especially for evolutionary economics. We show, however, that in the development of evolutionary biology, the abstract principles of so-called “Generalized Darwinism” have not been crucial for distinguishing Darwinian from non-Darwinian approaches and, hence, cannot be considered genuinely Darwinian. Moreover, we wonder what can be gained by invoking the abstract principles of Generalized Darwinism given that they do not suffice to substantiate an explanation of actual evolutionary processes. To that end, specific hypotheses are required. They neither follow from the suggested abstract principles, nor are they more easily found on that basis. Accordingly, we find little evidence in the literature for the claim that generalized Darwinian principles enhance the explanatory power of an evolutionary approach to economics.


DarwinismEvolutionEvolutionary economics“Generalized Darwinism”VariationSelectionRetention

JEL Classification


Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of King’s CollegeHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.AG BiodidacticsFriedrich Schiller UniversityJenaGermany
  3. 3.Max Planck Institute of EconomicsJenaGermany