Pier Paolo Saviotti. Applied Evolutionary Economics: New Empirical Methods and Simulation Techniques

Pier Paolo Saviotti. Applied Evolutionary Economics: New Empirical Methods and Simulation Techniques

From a book collecting conference papers the reader is ready to tolerate a certain degree of variety in the different chapters. The more so for papers collected not because of a common subject or methodology, but for the somewhat elusive character of applied evolutionary economics. In fact, however praised for its theoretical soundness and sensible perspective of economic facts, this relatively young approach is widely reputed as being methodologically weak, lacking clear indications on how an applied evolutionary study should be conducted and evaluated (witness the lively methodological debate, that this journal actively promotes). One of the reasons is that evolutionary economics throws its net over a rather wide range of topics: technological innovation, organizational and behavioural phenomena, income distribution, industrial dynamics, etc. Correspondingly, researchers adopt disparate (and sometimes relatively poorly developed) analytical tools, from case studies to simulations, from "appreciative theorizing" to formal models borrowed from advanced mathematical biology or network analysis. Such diversity, as useful as it is to adapt the evolutionary principles to different topics, generate much confusion when one attempts to provide a unified picture of what evolutionary studies can contribute to real world problems, both in absolute terms and compared to other approaches.

The book reflects the expected diversity in its chapters: case studies, simulation models, historical accounts and statistical analysis are variously used to study specific historical events, industries, or general properties of abstract models. These chapters form, overall, a good reading (more on these in the following), making these collection a representative sample of the different threads composing evolutionary economics. Given this premise, the reader would then expect the introductory section to summarize the chapters content with only a short, probably heroic, effort to delineate some shared characteristics among all subjects touched in the book. Instead, the editor's introduction avoids the simple route, and aims directly at the very core of most relevant problem concerning evolutionary economics, devoting a large part of the readers' attention to consider the reasons for evolutionary economics' methodological (apparent) weakness. The introductory chapter is an articulate analysis of current condition of the evolutionary movement, justifying its methodological limitations and even proposing a bold program for future development on this issue. For this reason, this review devotes a disproportionate comment to the book's introduction, and relative smaller space to the chapters' content.

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