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Lehmann-Waffenschmidt Marco | Fellow Visitor
2006-10-01 - 2006-12-31 | Research area: Other
Anagenesis, Drift, Irregularity - Does Economic Evolution Have a Direction?

Modern economies obviously neither evolve in a stationary, nor in a steady-state growth process. Instead, economic evolution is essentially characterized by processes of open-loop change, which cannot be adequately described by closed-loop dynamic models recurring on differential equation systems. Hence the question as to the (gradual) directedness (“orthogenesis”) of economic evolutionary processes that lie between the two extremes of complete directedness and complete openness. Of course, an analysis of directedness characteristics of economic processes must be individually adapted to the individual term characteristics (long, middle, short) and system characteristics (for instance, the whole economy, an industry, a single firm, etc.) of the process under consideration. Knowledge about directedness characteristics is not only important to understand and evaluate judge processes of economic change – for instance with respect to social welfare (e.g., C. C. von Weizsäcker) — but also to develop measures to control and steer such processes in a desirable way. In particular, the question arises whether long-term economic evolution can be characterized by either progress (anagenesis) or drift — as some evolutionary economists (e.g. U. Witt, K. Dopfer) believe — showing a trend which, however, is not characterized by systematic directional properties or an irregular movement.

The main aim of the study is 1) to elaborate the method following the lines of the contingency/ counterfactual approach proposed by the author — “What might have happened (ex post), or may (ex ante) happen, alternatively to the observed or expected real process?” — in order to arrive at a generally valid method to analyze and measure the causal relationship between any two states of an economic or social process (“degree of causality,” “contingency neighborhood degree”), and 2) to apply this method to a number of economic case studies — from economic and business history or of contemporary issues —so that alleged causal relations between states of a real process can be analyzed critically.

A long-term goal of the project is to develop a typology of economic processes with respect to their causal characteristics from theoretical and empirical work in order to find “stylized facts of economic evolution,” i.e., regularities and invariants of economic evolution (differentiated for the different types of processes).

Applying an adjusted method transfer from biological evolution theory and historiography to the economic evolutionary approach, and in particular to the contingency/counterfactual approach should allow to fruitfully integrate conceptions, methods, and analytical instruments from these fields into evolutionary economics.