The Idea of Evolution in the Economics and Social Theory


AMME IDARESI DERGISI, vol.44, no.3, pp.1-26, 2011 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 44 Issue: 3
  • Publication Date: 2011
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.1-26
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


The paper focuses on the shortcomings of the attempts of applying the idea of evolution to economics and social theory in an uncritical way. First shortcoming is the fact that the notion of evolution is used in the social theory in an undiscriminating fashion, without explaining the content of evolution. For the most part, evolutionary notions are meant to be used as metaphors or analogies in the social science, but sometimes they are also expected to act like causal mechanisms to explain social change. However, since they are only metaphors, they cannot carry such burden. Secondly, especially in economics, the notion of evolution is used in an "adaptationist", even a "Panglossian" way that emphasizes optimization principle, as in the rational choice theory used in economics. Such uses, coupled with functionalism, leads to an instrumental outlook that emphasizes the "fitness" of every social relation, institution, etc. to some "needs". Last, but not the least, uncritical application of evolutionary notions to the social world overlooks the importance of human intentionality in social change, and thus making individuals mere "puppets" of some autonomous evolutionary forces.