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This book contains the most sustained and serious attack on mainstream, neoclassical economics in more than forty years. Richard R. Nelson and Sidney G. Winter focus their critique on the basic question of how firms and industries change overtime. They marshal significant objections to the fundamental neoclassical assumptions of profit maximization and market equilibrium, which they find ineffective in the analysis of technological innovation and the dynamics of competition among firms.
To replace these assumptions, they borrow from biology the concept of natural selection to construct a precise and detailed evolutionary theory of business behavior. They grant that films are motivated by profit and engage in search for ways of improving profits, but they do not consider them to be profit maximizing. Likewise, they emphasize the tendency for the more profitable firms to drive the less profitable ones out of business, but they do not focus their analysis on hypothetical states of industry equilibrium.
The results of their new paradigm and analytical framework are impressive. Not only have they been able to develop more coherent and powerful models of competitive firm dynamics under conditions of growth and technological change, but their approach is compatible with findings in psychology and other social sciences. Finally, their work has important implications for welfare economics and for government policy toward industry.
“The book ranges from subtle theoretical analyzes of the nature of choice to highly explicit mathematical modeling, from the theory of the firm to the theory of bureaucratic agencies. It is very engagingly written, and conveys extremely well the dilemma that must haunt any social scientist worth his salt: the necessity of choosing between realism and simplicity as guides to theory construction. ” – Jon Elster , London Review of books
“[An] extremely interesting book… This volume increases one’s confidence that, after all these years, Schumpeter’s intuition can be stated in a formally respectable way, and therefore that the field of industrial organization can begin solving it’s most important problems. ” – Journal of Comparative Economics
“An important and interesting book.” – Journal of Political Economy
“The book spans an enormous literature ― dealing with economics as a process, evolutionary modeling, Schumpeterian competition, organization form, and the like ― and performs important interpretive and integrative functions. Mainly, however, the book represents a significant original research contribution in both methodological and substantive respects. It will influence teaching, research, and public policy relating to complex economic systems for years to come. While the book is written by and primarily for economists, it is broadly conceived and should impact social science research quite generally. ” – Oliver Williamson, University of Pennsylvania
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