Journal of Evolutionary Economics

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 317–334 | Cite as

Intentionality and the emergence of complexity: an analytical approach

  • Félix-Fernando MuñozEmail author
  • María-Isabel Encinar
Regular Article


Emergence is a generic property that makes economies become complex. The simultaneous carrying out of agents’ intentional action plans within an economic system generates processes that are at the base of structural change and the emergence of adaptive complex systems. This paper argues that goals and intentionality are key elements of the structure of rational human action and are the origin of emergent properties such as innovation within economic complex systems. To deal with the locus and role of goals and intentionality in relation to the emergence of complexity we propose an analytical approach based on agents’ action plans. Action plans are open representations of the action projected by agents (as individuals or organizations), where the means (actions) and objectives (or goals) are not necessarily given, but produced by agents themselves.


Intentionality Action plans Emergence of novelty  Complexity 

JEL Classifications

B41 B52 D89 O10 



The authors would like to thank two anonymous referees for their very useful comments and suggestions as well as to Professor Rafael Rubio de Urquía, Carolina Cañibano and David Harper, for their valuable advises.

The authors acknowledge the scientific support from the ‘Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas y Sociales Francisco de Vitoria’ and Universidad Aut ´onoma de Madrid. The usual disclaimers apply.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Análisis Económico: Teoría Económica e Historia EconómicaUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain

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