Journal of Evolutionary Economics

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 259–281 | Cite as

Darwinism in economics: from analogy to ontology

  • Geoffrey M. Hodgson
Original paper


Several social scientists, including ‘evolutionary economists’, have expressed scepticism of ‘biological analogies’ and rejected the application of ‘Darwinism’ to socio-economic evolution. Among this group, some have argued that self-organisation is an alternative to biological analogies or Darwinism. Others have seen ‘artificial selection’ as an alternative to natural selection in the socio-economic sphere. Another objection is that Darwinism excludes human intentionality. It is shown that all these objections to ‘biological analogies’ and ‘Darwinism’ are ungrounded. Furthermore, Darwinism includes a broad theoretical framework for the analysis of the evolution of all open, complex systems, including socio-economic systems. Finally and crucially, Darwinism also involves a basic philosophical commitment to detailed, cumulative, causal explanations. For these reasons, Darwinism is fully relevant for economics and an adequate evolutionary economics must be Darwinian, at least in these fundamental senses. However, this does not undermine the need for auxiliary theories and explanations in the economic domain.

Key words: Darwinism – Evolutionary economics – Self-organisation – Causal explanation 
JEL Classification: A1, B4, B5 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Geoffrey M. Hodgson
    • 1
  1. 1.The Business School, University of Hertfordshire, Mangrove Road, Hertford, Hertfordshire SG13 8QF, UK (e-mail: GB

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