Axial Shift pp 151-197 | Cite as

The Morphogenetic Foundations of Economic Change

  • Benjamen GussenEmail author


Building on the synthesis in Chap.  5, this chapter explains mechanisms of economic change based on analogies with biology. The analysis in this chapter does not only attempt to understand social reality but to change it. It is also post-structural in that it focuses on structures and texts, and it requires a wider understanding of social change in order to understand the basis of economic change. The aim is to discover hypotheses embedded in the wider context of social change. Social change itself can be decomposed into a number of different strands: change as transformation, change as replacement, and change as addition or reduction. Only replacement is associated with qualitative change, and hence evolution. In the final analysis, economic change is linked to the structure of the political state. Pathologies of economic change, including morphostasis, necessitate a rethinking of political organization. The principle of subsidiarity, with a praxis inspired by sovereign cities, is imperative for the continuous evolution of societies, and hence economies. The common link in this school of thought could be described in many ways. Whatever we decide to attribute to the common link that brings the school together, we are bound to note its emphasis on city confederations that would ultimately bring political unification on a global scale. Such unification is not through a top-down approach, but one where local autonomy takes the lead in policy prescription at all scales. In this future, nation-state becomes subsidiary. Sovereign cities replace nation-states on the ‘international’ stage.


  1. W M Adams, ‘The Future of Sustainability: Re-Thinking Environment and Development in the Twenty-First Century’ (Report of the IUCN Renowned Thinkers Meeting, 2006).Google Scholar
  2. Alesina, Alberto, Roberto Perotti and Enrico Spolaore, ‘Together or Separately? Issues on the Costs and Benefits of Political and Fiscal Unions’ (1995) 39(3–4) European Economic Review 751–758.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alesina, Alberto and Enrico Spolaore, ‘On the Number and Size of Nations’ (1997) 112(4) The Quarterly Journal of Economics 1027–1056.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Alesina, Alberto, The size of nations (MIT Press Cambridge, MA, 2003).Google Scholar
  5. Alesina, Alberto, Enrico Spolaore and Romain Wacziarg, ‘Chapter 23 Trade, Growth and the Size of Countries’ in Aghion Philippe and N Durlauf Steven (eds), Handbook of Economic Growth (Elsevier, 2005) 1499.Google Scholar
  6. Allee, W C, Animal Aggressions (University of Chicago Press Chicago, 1931).Google Scholar
  7. ———, The Social Life of Animals (William Heinemann, London, 1938).Google Scholar
  8. ———, et al, Principles of Animal Ecology (Saunders Philadelphia, 1949).Google Scholar
  9. Allen, Peter M, ‘Coherence, Chaos and Evolution in the Social Context’ (1994) 26(6) Futures 583.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. ———, ‘Coherence, Chaos and Evolution in the Social Context’ (2001) ‘Knowledge, Ignorance, and Evolution in Complex Systems’ in J Foster, J S Metcalfe (eds), Frontiers of Evolutionary Economics (Edward Elgar, 2001) 313.Google Scholar
  11. Allen, P M, ‘Understanding Social and Economic Systems as Evolutionary Complex Systems’ in K Dopfer (ed), The Evolutionary Foundations of Economics (Cambridge University Press, 2005) 431.Google Scholar
  12. Amabile, Teresa M and Others, ‘Breakthrough Ideas for 2010’ (2010) 88 (1/2) Harvard Business Review 41.Google Scholar
  13. Anckar, Carsten, ‘Size, Islandness, and Democracy: A Global Comparison’ (2008) 29(4) International Political Science Review 433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Anielski, Mark, Economics of Happiness: Building Genuine Wealth (New Society Publishers Gabriola Island, 2007).Google Scholar
  15. Archer, Margaret S, ‘Social Morphogenesis and the Prospect of Morphogenetic Society’ in Margaret S Archer (ed), Social Morphogenesis (Springer, 2013) 1.Google Scholar
  16. Arthur, W B, ‘Competing Technologies, Increasing Returns, and Lock-in by Historical Events’ (1989) 99 The Economic Journal 116.Google Scholar
  17. ———, Increasing Returns and Path Dependence in the Economy (Michigan University Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  18. Axelrod, Robert, The Evolution of Cooperation (Basic Books, 1984).Google Scholar
  19. Barro, Robert J, ‘Determinants of Democracy’ (1999a) 107(S6(2)) Journal of Political Economy S158.Google Scholar
  20. ———, ‘Rule of Law, Democracy, and Economic Performance’ in Kim R Holmes, Melanie Kirkpatrick, and Gerald P O’Driscoll (eds), 2000 Index of Economic Freedom (Heritage Foundation, 6th ed, 1999b).Google Scholar
  21. Boden, M, The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1990).Google Scholar
  22. Bolton, Patrick, Gérard Roland and Enrico Spolaore, ‘Economic Theories of the Break-Up and Integration of Nations’ (1996) 40(3–5) European Economic Review 697.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Bookchin, Murray, The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy (California Cheshire Books, 1982).Google Scholar
  24. ———, The Limits of the City (Black Rose Books, 1986).Google Scholar
  25. ———, The Rise of Urbanization and the Decline of Citizenship (Sierra Club Books, 1987).Google Scholar
  26. Boulding, K E, Beyond Economics (University of Michigan Press, 1968).Google Scholar
  27. ———, Collected Papers (Volumes I and II) (Colorado Associated University Press, 1971).Google Scholar
  28. ———, Evolutionary Economics (Sage Publications, 1981).Google Scholar
  29. ———, The Organizational Revolution: A Study in the Ethics of Economic Organization (Greenwood Press, 1984 [1953]).Google Scholar
  30. ———, Towards a New Economics: Critical Essays on Ecology, Distribution, and Other Themes (Edward Elgar, 1992).Google Scholar
  31. Bourke, A F G, ‘Colony Size, Social Complexity and Reproductive Conflict in Social Insects’ (1999) 12 Journal of Evolutionary Biology 245.Google Scholar
  32. Brading, K and E Castellani (eds), Symmetries in Physics: Philosophical Reflections (Cambridge University Press, 2003).Google Scholar
  33. Brissaud, J-B, ‘The Meaning of Entropy’ (2005) 7(1) Entropy 68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Buchanan J and J Yong (eds), The Return to Increasing Returns (University of Michigan Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  35. Calhoun, John B, ‘Population Density and Social Pathology’ (1962) 206(3) Scientific American 139.Google Scholar
  36. Callejas, Danny García, ‘Biology and Economics: Metaphors that Economists usually take from Biology’ (2007) 24 Ecos de Economía 153.Google Scholar
  37. Camilo, M, D P Tittensor, S Adl, A G B Simpson, B Worm, ‘How Many Species Are There on Earth and in the Ocean?’ (2011) 9(8) Public Library of Science (PLoS) Biology e1001127.Google Scholar
  38. Carroll, S B, ‘Chance and Necessity: The Evolution of Morphological Complexity and Diversity’ (2001) 409 Nature 1102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Claeys, G, ‘The “Survival of the Fittest” and the Origins of Social Darwinism’ (2000) 61(2) Journal of the History of Ideas 223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Coase, R, ‘The New Institutional Economics’ (1998) 88(2) American Economic Review 72.Google Scholar
  41. Costa, James T, The Other Insect Societies (Harvard University Press, 2006).Google Scholar
  42. Dahl, A and Edward R Tufte, Size and Democracy (Stanford University Press, 1974).Google Scholar
  43. Dawkins, R, The Selfish Gene (Oxford University Press, 1976).Google Scholar
  44. Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (Continuum, 1980).Google Scholar
  45. Denters, Bas, ‘Size and Political Trust: Evidence from Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom’ (2002) 20 Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 793.Google Scholar
  46. Dopfer, K and J Potts, ‘Introduction: Evolutionary Microeconomics’ in K Dopfer and J Potts (eds), The New Evolutionary Economics (Edward Elgar, 2014).Google Scholar
  47. Elsner, W, ‘The Process and a Simple Logic of ‘Meso’: Emergence and the Co-evolution of Institutions and Group Size’ (2010) 20 Journal of Evolutionary Economics 445.Google Scholar
  48. Evans, G W, ‘Behavioral and Psychological Consequences of Crowding in Humans’ (1979) 9 Journal of Applied Social Psychology 27.Google Scholar
  49. Frey, Bruno and Alois Stutzer, ‘Happiness, Economy and Institutions’ (2000) 110 (466) The Economic Journal 918.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. ———, Happiness and Economics: How the Economy and Institutions Affect Human Well-Being (Princeton University Press, 2002).Google Scholar
  51. Friedman, David, ‘A Theory of the Size and Shape of Nations’ (1977) 85(1) Journal of Political Economy 59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Funtowicz, Silvio and Jerome R Ravetz, ‘Emergent Complex Systems’ (1994) 26(6) Futures 568.Google Scholar
  53. Gavrilov L and N Gavrilova, ‘Why We Fall Apart’ (2004) 41(9) IEEE Spectrum 30.Google Scholar
  54. Geisendorf, S, ‘The Economic Concept of Evolution: Self-organization or Universal Darwinism’ (2009) 16(4) Journal of Economic Methodology 377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Giampietro, Mario, ‘Using Hierarchy Theory to Explore the Concept of Sustainable Development’ (1994) 26(6) Futures 616.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Gill, Indermit S and Chor-Ching Goh, ‘Scale Economies and Cities’ (2010) 25(2) The World Bank Research Observer, 235.Google Scholar
  57. Glansdorff, P and Ilya Prigogine, Thermodynamic Theory of Structure, Stability, and Fluctuations (Wiley-Interscience, 1971).Google Scholar
  58. Goodwin, Brian, How the Leopard Changed its Spots: The Evolution of Complexity (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1994).Google Scholar
  59. Gordon, S, ‘Darwin and Political Economy: The Connection Reconsidered’ (1989) 22(3) Journal of the History of Biology 437.Google Scholar
  60. Gould, Sean, The Theory of Options: A New Theory of the Evolution of Human Behavior (Universal Publishers, 2007 [2000]).Google Scholar
  61. Gould, Stephen Jay, Full House (Harmony Books, 1996).Google Scholar
  62. ———, The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister’s Pox: Mending the Gap Between Science and the Humanities (Harvard University Press, 2011).Google Scholar
  63. Granovetter, M S, ‘The Strength of Weak Ties’ (1973) 78(6) The American Journal of Sociology 1360.Google Scholar
  64. ———, ‘The Strength of Weak Ties: A Network Theory Revisited’ (1983) 1 Sociological Theory 201.Google Scholar
  65. ———, ‘Economic Action and Social Structure: The Problem of Embeddedness’ (1985) 91(3) The American Journal of Sociology 481.Google Scholar
  66. Gussen, B F, ‘On the Problem of Scale: Hayek, Kohr, Jacobs and the Reinvention of the Political State’ (2013) 24(1) Constitutional Political Economy 19.Google Scholar
  67. ———, ‘On the Problem of Scale: A General Theory of Morphogenesis and Normative Policy Signals for Economic Evolution’ (2015) 12(1) Evolutionary and Institutional Economics Review 81.Google Scholar
  68. Hanusch, H and A Pyka, ‘Principles of Neo-Schumpeterian Economics’ (2007) 31 Cambridge Journal of Economics 275.Google Scholar
  69. Hayden, F G, ‘Evolution of Time Constructs and Their impact on Socioeconomic Planning’ in M R Tool (ed), Evolutionary Economics (M E Sharpe, 1988) vol 1, 329.Google Scholar
  70. Helling, C S, ‘Simplifying the Complex: The Paradigms of Ecological Function and Structure’ (1994) 26(6) Futures 598.Google Scholar
  71. Helliwell, John, Richard Layard and Jeffrey Sachs (eds), World Happiness Report (Columbia University Press, 2012).Google Scholar
  72. Heylighen, Francis, ‘Complexity and Self-Organization’ in Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, (Taylor & Francis, 3rd ed, 2009) 1215.Google Scholar
  73. Huizinga, J, Homo Ludens: A study of the Play Element in Culture (Paladin, 1970).Google Scholar
  74. Holt, R, J B Rosser Jr, D Colander, ‘The Complexity Era in Economics’ (2011) 23(3) Review of Economic Policy 357.Google Scholar
  75. Hölldobler, Bert and Edward O Wilson, The Superorganism (W W Norton & Company, 2009).Google Scholar
  76. Hutchinson, William T, et al (eds), The Papers of James Madison (University of Chicago Press, 1962).Google Scholar
  77. Inayatullah, Sohail, ‘Life, the Universe and Emergence’ (1994) 26(6) Futures 683.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Inglehart, Ronald, Culture Shift in Advanced Industrial Society (Princeton University Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  79. Inglehart, Ronald and Christian Welzel, Modernization, Cultural Change and Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2005).Google Scholar
  80. Jantsch, Erich, Design for Evolution: Self-Organization and Planning in the Life of Human Systems (George Braziller, 1975).Google Scholar
  81. Jarvie, I C and K Milford, ‘Karl Popper: Life and Time, and Values in a World of Facts’ in Karl Milford (ed), Karl Popper: A Centenary Assessment (Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2006) 218.Google Scholar
  82. Kirman, A P and N J Vriend, ‘Evolving Market Structure: An ACE Model of Price Dispersion and Loyalty’ (2001) 25(3–4) Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control 459.Google Scholar
  83. Knudsen, T, ‘Economic Selection Theory’ (2002) 12 Journal of Evolutionary Economics 443.Google Scholar
  84. Kramer, A M, et al, ‘The Evidence for Allee Effects’ (2009) 51(3) Population Ecology 351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Kropotkin, P, Fields, Factories and Workshops or Industry Combined with Agriculture and Brain Work with Manual Work (G P Putman’s Sons, 1901).Google Scholar
  86. ———, Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (William Heinemann, 1904).Google Scholar
  87. ———, The Essential Kropotkin (Liveright, 1975).Google Scholar
  88. Laincz, Christopher A and Pietro F. Peretto, ‘Scale Effects in Endogenous Growth Theory: An Error of Aggregation Not Specification’ (2006) 11(3) Journal of Economic Growth 263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Lawson, T, Economics and Reality (Routledge, 1997).Google Scholar
  90. Lewin, Roger, Life at the Edge of Chaos (Collier Books, 1992).Google Scholar
  91. Lipsey, Richard G, A Reconsideration of the Theory of Non-Linear Scale Effects: The Sources of Varying Returns to, and Economies of, Scale (Cambridge University Press, 2018).Google Scholar
  92. Lorenz, Edward N, The Essence of Chaos (University of Washington Press, 1993).Google Scholar
  93. Luhmann, N, Trust and Power (John Wiley & Sons, 1979).Google Scholar
  94. Marion, Russ, The Edge of Organization: Chaos and Complexity Theories of Formal Social Systems (Sage Publications, 1999).Google Scholar
  95. Mateos, R, et al, ‘From Linearity to Complexity: Towards a New Economics’ (2002) 10 Complexity International.
  96. Matthews, R C O, ‘Darwinism and Economic Change’ in D A Collard, N H Dimsdale, C L Gilbert, D R Helm, M F G Scott, A K Sen (eds), Economic Theory and Hicksian Themes (Clarendon Press, 1984) 91.Google Scholar
  97. McShea, D W, ‘Mechanisms of Large-Scale Evolutionary Trends’ (1994) 48 Evolution, 1747.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Metcalfe, J S, ‘Accounting for Economic Evolution: Fitness and the Population Method’ (2008) 10 Journal of Bioeconomics 23.Google Scholar
  99. Mumford, Lewis, Technics and Civilization (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1934).Google Scholar
  100. ———, The Culture of Cities (Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York, 1938).Google Scholar
  101. ———, The Condition of Man (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1944).Google Scholar
  102. ———, The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1961).Google Scholar
  103. ———, The Myth of the Machine Vol 1 (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1967).Google Scholar
  104. ———, The Myth of the Machine Vol 2 (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970).Google Scholar
  105. ———, The Transformations of Man (Harper & Row, 1972 [1956]).Google Scholar
  106. Olsson, Ola and Gustav Hansson, ‘Country Size and the Rule of Law: Resuscitating Montesquieu’ (2011) 55 European Economic Review 613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  107. Porpora, Douglas V, ‘Morphogenesis and Social Change’ in Margaret S Archer, Social Morphogenesis (Springer, 2013) 25.Google Scholar
  108. Prigogine, Ilya, Gregoire Nicolis and Agnès Babloyantz, ‘Thermodynamics of Evolution’ (1972) 25(11) Physics Today 23.Google Scholar
  109. Prigogine, Ilya, ‘Thermodynamics of Evolution’ (1972) 25(12) Physics Today 38.Google Scholar
  110. Regoecezi, W, ‘The Impact of Density: The Importance of Nonlinearity and Selection on Flight and Fight Responses’ (2002) 81 Social Forces 505.Google Scholar
  111. Rosen, J, Symmetry Rules: How Science and Nature are Founded on Symmetry (Springer, 2008).Google Scholar
  112. Schmitter, Philippe C, ‘The Future of Democracy: Could it Be a Matter of Scale?’ (1999) 66(3) Social Research 933.Google Scholar
  113. Schrodinger, E, What is Life? (Cambridge University Press, 1967).Google Scholar
  114. Schumacher, Ernst F, A Guide for the Perplexed (Cape, 1977).Google Scholar
  115. ———, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered (Hartley & Marks, 1999).Google Scholar
  116. de Spinoza, Benedict, A Theologico-Political Treatise and a Political Treatise (Dover, 1951).Google Scholar
  117. Stasavage, J, Geographic Scale and Constitutional Control in the Process of European State Formation (New York University, 2009).Google Scholar
  118. Stephens, P A, W J Sutherland and R P Freckleton, ‘What is the Allee effect?’ (1999) 87(1) Oikos 185.Google Scholar
  119. Tainter, Joseph A, ‘Sustainability of Complex Societies’ (1995) [397] 27(4) Futures 397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  120. ———, ‘Social Complexity and Sustainability’ (2006) [91] 3 Ecological Complexity 91.Google Scholar
  121. Voets, Henk J L and Lucio Biggiero, ‘Globalization and Self-Organization: The Consequences of Decentralization for Industrial Organization’ (2000) 10(1) International Review of Sociology 73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  122. Waldrop, M Mitchell, Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos (Simon & Schuster, 1992).Google Scholar
  123. Wansbrough, D, ‘Waiter, There’s a Government in My Soup! Public Trust and Confidence in Food Regulators’ (Australian National University, 2002).Google Scholar
  124. Ward, Hugh, ‘Liberal Democracy and Sustainability’ (2008) 17(3) Environmental Politics 386.Google Scholar
  125. White, A, ‘A Global Projection of Subjective Well-Being: A Challenge to Positive Psychology?’ (2006) 56 Psychtalk 19.Google Scholar
  126. White, Colin, ‘Morphogenesis, Continuity and Change in the International Political System’ in Margaret S Archer, Social Morphogenesis (Springer, 2013) 85.Google Scholar
  127. Whitfield, P, Evolution: The Greatest Story Ever Told (Marshall Publishing, 1998).Google Scholar
  128. Wilkins, J S, The ‘Appearance of Lamarckism in the Evolution of Culture’ in J Laurent, J Nightingale (eds), Darwinism and Evolutionary Economics (Edward Elgar, 2001).Google Scholar
  129. de Wit, B and J Smith, Field Theory in Particle Physics (North-Holland, 1986).Google Scholar
  130. Witt, U, ‘Emergence and Dissemination of Innovations: Some Principles of Evolutionary Economics’ in R Day and P Chen (eds), Nonlinear Dynamics and Evolutionary Economics (Oxford University Press, 1993) 91.Google Scholar
  131. Zwicky, Fritz, Discovery, Invention, Research (Macmillan, 1969).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of LawSwinburne University of TechnologyMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations