Thursday, April 5, 2012

An Economics and Evolutionary Biology Reading List

You'll find it here, via MR. I find it to be a fine yet incomplete list. A few additions. In terms of popular books, one commenter added Eric Beinhocker's Origins of Wealth. In my mind this would be the place to start. It's great and I recommend it strongly. It seems to me that evolutionary economics offers a less complete vision than complexity theory, and you get a lot of that in Beinhocker as well. Melanie Mitchell's book, Complexity: A Guided Tour, is a good companion to Beinhocker, though off our current topic.

If you want something on the academic side, works by Stan Metcalfe (1, 2) should be included and the Nelson/Winter treatise is canonical, yet missing. Really everything by Nelson. Start there, and then read Baumol's Microtheory of Innovative Entrepreneurship, or perhaps the gentler, The Free-Market Innovation Machine.

I am less qualified to offer recommendations on the biology side, though I found Stuart Kauffman's work to be uniformly excellent. His At Home in the Universe is an easier read than Origin of Order, but both are great and highly recommended. Not all of the conclusions are universally accepted, though epistasis and fitness landscapes (and Kauffman's NK model) should be important concepts in the social sciences. Ernst Mayr's What Evolution Is, is a fine introductory book written for non-specialists.

This is all tip of the iceburg of course, but it's nice to see so much new work in this field. Most of this remains outside the mainstream of economics, with the partial exception of Nelson/Winter and Metcalfe. In part this reflects a general wariness of evolutionary concepts, which have been grossly misused in the past. But it also reflects a desire by economists, in particular, to maintain their focus on equilibrium and optimization analysis, their two primary tools. An evolutionary perspective can be made to fit these tools, but it does present a challenge to them as well.

And it should go without saying that I'd recommend reading lots and lots of Schumpeter.

No comments:

Post a Comment