Rethinking the theoretical foundation of economics I: The multilevel paradigm

This article offers a new paradigm for economics: the “multilevel paradigm,” which applies the Darwinian theory of evolution to the analysis of economic processes. “Darwinian” refers to all variation/selection/replication processes, not just genetic evolution, making it highly relevant to economic theory and practice. The economy is viewed as a system that is embedded within political, social and environmental systems. The evolution of economic activities is understood in terms of variation (innovation), selection (cooperative and competitive relations that survive) and replication (transmission and proliferation of ideas). The multilevel paradigm comes with its own definition and purpose of economics, as the discipline that explores how resources, goods and services can be mobilized in the pursuit of wellbeing in thriving societies, now and in the future. We describe the prominent characteristics of the multilevel paradigm: flexible, multiple levels of functional organization; the primacy of social relations, ignorance as uncertainty; multi-faceted, context-dependent wellbeing; and multilevel evolution as progress.

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