Complexity and Evolution

From Strüngmann Forum Reports

Complexity and Evolution

Toward a New Synthesis for Economics

Edited by David S. Wilson and Alan Kirman

An exploration of how approaches that draw on evolutionary theory and complexity science can advance our understanding of economics.





An exploration of how approaches that draw on evolutionary theory and complexity science can advance our understanding of economics.

Two widely heralded yet contested approaches to economics have emerged in recent years: one emphasizes evolutionary theory in terms of individuals and institutions; the other views economies as complex adaptive systems. In this book, leading scholars examine these two bodies of theory, exploring their possible impact on economics. Relevant concepts from evolutionary theory drawn on by the contributors include the distinction between proximate and ultimate causation, multilevel selection, cultural change as an evolutionary process, and human psychology as a product of gene-culture coevolution. Applicable ideas from complexity theory include self-organization, fractals, chaos theory, sensitive dependence, basins of attraction, and path dependence.

The contributors discuss a synthesis of complexity and evolutionary approaches and the challenges that emerge. Focusing on evolutionary behavioral economics, and the evolution of institutions, they offer practical applications and point to avenues for future research.

ContributorsRobert Axtell, Jenna Bednar, Eric D. Beinhocker, Adrian V. Bell, Terence C. Burnham, Julia Chelen, David Colander, Iain D. Couzin, Thomas E. Currie, Joshua M. Epstein, Daniel Fricke, Herbert Gintis, Paul W. Glimcher, John Gowdy, Thorsten Hens, Michael E. Hochberg, Alan Kirman, Robert Kurzban, Leonhard Lades, Stephen E. G. Lea, John E. Mayfield, Mariana Mazzucato, Kevin McCabe, John F. Padgett, Scott E. Page, Karthik Panchanathan, Peter J. Richerson, Peter Schuster, Georg Schwesinger, Rajiv Sethi, Enrico Spolaore, Sven Steinmo, Miriam Teschl, Peter Turchin, Jeroen C. J. M. van den Bergh, Sander E. van der Leeuw, Romain Wacziarg, John J. Wallis, David S. Wilson, Ulrich Witt


$50.00 X ISBN: 9780262035385 408 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 10 b&w illus., 9 halftones


David S. Wilson

David S. Wilson is SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University and President of the Evolution Institute.

Alan Kirman

Alan Kirman is Emeritus Professor of Economics at Aix-Marseille University and Director of Studies at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Aix-en-Provence.


  • Complexity and Evolution provides a map of the path less followed by economics over the past fifty years—a path of complex, emergent behavior, and multiple evolutionary equilibria. This path holds great promise when making sense of our often jumbled economic and financial world.

    Andrew G. Haldane

    Chief Economist, Bank of England

  • There are countless books now on interdisciplinary economics, commonly called econophysics. The editors address the question 'How can we comprehend the key ideas, with some applications that we all care about?' In answering this question, they and their contributors have produced a remarkably readable book, equally suitable for a course in economics or physical science. It is also ideal for self-study by practitioners who want to better understand some of the more complex ideas characterizing current work in this area.

    H. Eugene Stanley

    William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor, Boston University

  • This 'how-to guide' lays out a design for renovating economics and constructing a fully integrated approach to human psychology, behavior, and society. This eclectic crew of researchers has begun the challenging job of scavenging the best available tools, methods, and insights from evolutionary biology, behavioral economics, ecology, psychology, neuroscience, and anthropology and then retrofitting them in this bold scientific endeavor.

    Joe Henrich

    Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University; author of The Secret of Our Success and coauthor of Why Humans Cooperate