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

  • Georgy S. Levit
  • Uwe Hossfeld
  • Ulrich WittEmail author
Regular Article


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.


Darwinism Evolution Evolutionary economics “Generalized Darwinism” Variation Selection Retention 

JEL Classification

B25 B40 B52 



Support by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Ho 2143, 9–1) for Hossfeld and Levit’s research on the history of evolutionary biology is gratefully acknowledged. The authors also wish to thank the Situating Science: Works in Progress discussion round at the University of King’s College, Halifax (Levit) and G.Hodgson, J.-W. Stoelhorst, and Jack Vromen for inspiring discussions on the controversy (Witt).


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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

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