The Economy as an Evolving Complex System

Introduction (via Tuwien)

How does one instigate a scientific revolution, or more modestly, a shift of scientific paradigm? This must have been on the minds of the organizers of the two conferences “The Economy as an Evolving Complex System, I and II” and the research program in economics at the Santa Fe Institute documented in the present volume and its predecessor of ten years ago.

Their strategy might be reconstructed as follows. First, the stranglehold of neoclassical economics on the Anglo-Saxon academic community since World War II is at least partly due to the ascendancy of mathematical rigor as the touchstone of serious economic theorizing. Thus if one could beat the prevailing paradigm at its own game one would immediately have a better footing in the community than the heretics, mostly from the left or one of the various `institutional’ camps, who had been sniping at it from the sidelines all the while but were never above the suspicion of not being mathematically up to comprehending it in the first place. Second, one could enlist both prominent representatives and path-breaking methods from the natural sciences to legitimize the introduction of (to economists) fresh and in some ways disturbing approaches to the subject. This was particularly the tack taken in 1987, where roughly equal numbers of scientists and economists were brought together in an extensive brain storming session. Physics has always been the role model for other aspiring `hard’ sciences, and physicists seem to have succeeded in institutionalizing a `permanent revolution’ in their own methodology, i.e., they are relatively less dogmatic and willing to be more eclectic in the interests of getting results. The fact that, with the exception of a brief chapter by Philip Anderson in the present volume, physicists as representatives of their discipline are no longer present, presumably indicates that their services can now be dispensed with in this enterprise.

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22. September 2009 by Miguel Barbosa
Categories: Curated Readings, Finance & Investing | Leave a comment

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