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Present and future of evolutionary economics: post-institutionalist’s opinion

Frolov, Daniil (2019): Present and future of evolutionary economics: post-institutionalist’s opinion. Forthcoming in:

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Modern evolutionary economics is in the ripening phase and at the same time demonstrates clear signs of an internal crisis. Having become one of the main pillars of economic heterodoxy, this scientific community still does not have a common methodological framework, an agreed research program and a system of normative settings. Indirectly responding to this crisis, a group of leading evolutionists led by Richard Nelson in the book «Modern Evolutionary Economics: An Overview» (2018) suggests moving from direct competition with the neoclassical mainstream to a compromise solution. The compromise is to complement neoclassicism with implicit evolutionary thinking, i.e. adoption of the thesis “history matters” as the basic premise of analysis, even when studying economic phenomena in statics. Similar crisis processes (and attempts at compromise solutions) are now observed in neoinstitutional theory - the mainstream of modern institutionalism - especially in the field of studying the evolution of institutions. The author, as a representative of post-institutionalism, argues that these crises are based on the exhaustion of the potential of the neo-Darwinist paradigm as a source of conceptual metaphors for studies of the economic and social evolution. Overcoming the paradigmal crisis requires going beyond the prevailing (and already dogmatized) metaphors. The necessary conditions have formed for this step: a paradigm shift is taking place in modern biological science - an extended evolutionary synthesis is taking the place of neo-Darwinism, the «core» of which is evolutionary developmental biology (Evo-Devo). In this regard, evolutionary economists have the opportunity to update the basic methodological «settings» by moving from neo-Darwinist metaphors to metaphors of the Evo-Devo. The article presents three complex priority tasks related to the implementation of the Evo-Devo paradigm. First, the rejection of any version of reductionism, in particular from mono-aspect, monocausal and dichotomous thinking. Secondly, the rejection of the optimization and dysfunctional approaches with the transition to bricolage thinking, based on a positive perception of the organic imperfection of economic institutions, mechanisms and systems. Thirdly, the addition of the traditional systemic approach to assemblage thinking with an emphasis on hybrid systems, the multiplicity of their logics and the inevitability of their conflicts. It is shown that the Evo-Devo paradigm allows a more adequate explanation of the evolution of the irreducible complexity of economic systems

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