Evolutionary Economics

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= school of economic historians who attempt to link Technological Revolutions and Societal Transitions, following the long wave theories of Kondratieff and Schumpeter


Gérard Valenduc:

"Schumpeter’s writings leave many questions unanswered. Is economic development inherently cyclical? To what extent is the periodicity of long waves pre-determined? How do clusters of innovation emerge? Which policies can governments adopt to influence the way in which the transition from one wave to the next unfolds? The ‘neo-Schumpeterian’ school of research – or evolutionary economics, which is the term preferred by its main protagonists – has emerged to answer these and other questions, with An evolutionary theory of economic change, published by Richard Nelson and Sydney Winter in 1982, regarded as its seminal work (Arena and Lazaric 2003). Other prominent researchers working within this tradition include Giovanni Dosi, Christopher Freeman, Bengt-Åke Lundvall, Mariana Mazzucato, Keith Pavitt, Carlota Perez, Mario Pianta, Nathan Rosenberg and Luc Soete.

The concepts developed by evolutionary economists include systems of innovation and technological trajectories. A system of innovation, defined at national or regional level, is a network of institutions and actors in the public and private sectors who interact in producing, adapting, diffusing and using the new knowledge and new technologies which contribute to social and economic development. This is a broader concept than the Schumpeterian cluster, since it also incorporates those who play a role in innovation and the social relations which emerge between them. A technological trajectory retraces the history of a group of innovations with its associated twists, turns and forks in the road, dead ends and fresh starts, and demonstrates that technological innovations are always path-dependent – a path shaped by the interactions between economic, institutional and social stakeholders.

A number of authors working in the field of regulation theory have also drawn inspiration from evolutionary thinking, particularly in their analyses of the Fordist mode of regulation which is the hallmark of the 1945-1975 period of prosperity. The downfall of Fordism from the 1980s onwards can be interpreted as the decline of the techno-economic paradigm which shaped this period of prosperity (Boyer and Coriat 1984), and the very idea of a ‘post-Fordist’ revival implies the need for a new mode of growth based on a techno-economic paradigm newly forged from controversy and upheaval (Boyer 2002). "