Skip to main content

Natural Selection and Evolution

  • Reference work entry
  • First Online:
The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics
  • 363 Accesses


Important theoretical concepts tend to resist satisfactory definition (cf. Stigler 1957). Such concepts are in the service of the expansive ambitions of the theories in which they occur, and must accordingly respond flexibly to the changing requirements for maintaining order in a changing intellectual empire. The term ‘evolution’ – obviously important in biology, but also in the physical and social sciences – provides a good illustration of this principle. A prominent biologist and author of a highly expansive treatise on biological evolution had the following to offer in his glossary:

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or eBook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
USD 6,499.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Hardcover Book
USD 8,499.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Alchian, A. 1950. Uncertainty, evolution and economic theory. Journal of Political Economy 58: 211–221.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Arthur, W.B. 1984. Competing technologies and economic prediction. Options (I.I.A.S.A., Laxenburg, Austria), 10–13.

    Google Scholar 

  • Axelrod, R. 1984. The evolution of cooperation. New York: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Boyd, R., and P. Richerson. 1985. Culture and the evolutionary process. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • David, P. 1985. CLIO and the economics of QWERTY. American Economic Review 75(2): 332–337.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hirshleifer, J. 1985. The expanding domain of economics. American Economic Review 75(6): 53–68.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marshall, A. 1920. Principles of economics, 8th ed. London: Macmillan, 1953.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nelson, R., and S. Winter. 1982. An evolutionary theory of economic change. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Penrose, E. 1952. Biological analogies in the theory of the firm. American Economic Review 42: 804–819.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schumpeter, J. 1950. Capitalism, socialism and democracy, 3rd ed. New York: Harper.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stigler, G. 1957. Perfect competition, historically contemplated. In Essays in the history of economics, ed. G. Stigler. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965.

    Google Scholar 

  • Salthouse, T. 1984. The skill of typing. Scientific American 250(2): 128–135.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thomas, B. 1983. Alfred Marshall on economic biology. Paper presented to the History of Economics Society, May.

    Google Scholar 

  • Veblen, T. 1898. Why economics is not an evolutionary science. In The place of science in modern civilization, ed. T. Veblen. New York: Russell & Russell, 1961.

    Google Scholar 

  • Williamson, O. 1985. The economic institutions of capitalism. New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wilson, E. 1975. Sociobiology: A new synthesis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Winter, S. 1971. Satisficing, selection and the innovating remnant. Quarterly Journal of Economics 85(2): 237–261.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Editor information

Copyright information

© 2018 Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

About this entry

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this entry

Winter, S.G. (2018). Natural Selection and Evolution. In: The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Download citation

Publish with us

Policies and ethics