February 2001

The abstracts of a new working papers by Howard Aldrich & Martha Argelia Martinez, Johann Peter Murmann, and Richard R. Nelson are posted.

January 2001

The abstract of a new working paper by Bruce Fetter applying the concept of memes to human mortality reduction is now posted.

January 09, 2001


Technological Innovation as an Evolutionary Process

For our third original review (published January 9, 2001), Keith Pavitt has taken on the challenging task of evaluating this important new edited book for etss.net. John Ziman (editor) brought together leading scholars on technological change (John Ziman, Eva Jablonka, Joel Mokyr, Richard Nelson, Alan Macfarlane, Sarah Harrison, Gerry Martin, David Turnbull, Paul A. David, W. Bernard Carlson, David Perkins, Walter G. Vincenti, Joan Solomon, Geoffrey Miller, Edward W. Constant II, Rikard Stankiewicz, James Fleck, Gerard Fairclough, Janet Davies Burns) to appraise the usefulness of evolutionary ideas in explaining technical change. Brian Loasby and Stanley Metcalfe have written longer review essays. You can download the first chapter of the book as a pdf file here. Share your thoughts on the book or the review by posting a message at the end of the reviews.

November 2000

A conference took place in honor of the Richard R. Nelson at Columbia University in New York.  Click here for details on the conference and the papers presented.  You can read there Sidney Winter’s speech “The Evolution of Dick Nelson” and go on a photo tour.

October 2000

Scientific American published in its October 2000 issue an article by Susan Blackmore on “The Power of Memes.” Could the major influence in human evolution have been our penchant for mimicking everything from survival skills to gaudy fashions? The author argues provocatively that a talent for handling memes—ideas and practices transmitted through imitation—is what defines our nature.  Lee Alan Dugatkin, Robert Boyd and Peter J. Richerson, and Henry Plotkin provide counterpoints. 

August 2000

Evolutionary Theory in Management and Organization Theory at the Beginning of a New Millennium: A Symposium on the State of the Art and Opportunities for Future Research Evolutionary Theory.  The symposium, organized by Johann Peter Murmann, will take place on Monday, Aug 7 2000 4:10PM - 6:00PM at Sheraton Centre in Ballroom East, Toronto Canada. The speakers are Howard Aldrich, Dan Levinthal and Sid Winter. Click here for details.


May 2000

From Publisher’s Weekly - Publishers Weekly
In a world where companies are forced to adapt to an ever more quickly changing marketplace, where people from diverse backgrounds must work together in order to solve problems rapidly and the future is hard to predict, wouldn’t it be wonderful if all this complexity could work to your advantage? Axelrod (The Evolution of the Corporation) and Cohen (a consultant to the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center), both professors at the University of Michigan, aim to draw on the principles of evolutionary biology, computer science and social design to explain the functioning of “complex adaptive systems” (specifically businesses), and how to improve them. They explore such abstract issues as whether to encourage variation in a rapidly changing situation (whether it refers to a diversity of products or problem-solving approaches, variety is defined as “the raw material for adaptation”); the impact of manipulating interactions (with respect to time as well as both physical and conceptual space) in an organization; and how to select and support the most viable individuals, teams, systems or business strategies
that emerge.

May 09, 2000


Social Transformations. A General Theory of Historical Development. Expanded Edition

We continue today (May 9, 2000) our book review feature with Charles Tilly's reviews Stephen Sanderson's "Social Transformations. A General Theory of Historical Development. Expanded Edition." Stephen Sanderson writes a response clarifying his position. Share your thoughts on the book or the review by posting a message at the end of the review. This review will be published in paper form in the Canadian Journal of History.

May 2000

The abstract of a new working paper by Maurizzio Zollo and Sidney G. Winter is now posted.

April 2000

The abstracts of new working papers by Louis Galambos and Richard Nelson & Bhaven Sampat are now posted.


March 2000

Design Rules, Vol.1: The Power of Modularity by Carliss Baldwin and Kim Clark

From the Publisher: We live in a dynamic economic and commercial world, surrounded by objects of remarkable complexity and power. In many industries, changes in products and technologies have brought with them new kinds of firms and forms of organization. We are discovering news ways of structuring work, of bringing buyers and sellers together, and of creating and using market information. Although our fast-moving economy often seems to be outside of our influence or control, human beings create the things that create the market forces. Devices, software programs, production processes, contracts, firms, and markets are all the fruit of purposeful action: they are designed. Using the computer industry as an example, Carliss Y. Baldwin and Kim B. Clark develop a powerful theory of design and industrial evolution. They argue that the industry has experienced previously unimaginable levels of innovation and growth because it embraced the concept of modularity, building complex products from smaller subsystems that can be designed independently yet function together as a whole. Modularity freed designers to experiment with different approaches, as long as they obeyed the established design rules. Drawing upon the literatures of industrial organization, real options, and computer architecture, the authors provide insight into the forces of change that drive today’s economy.

February 2000

We are launching our book review feature.

February 08, 2000


Organizations Evolving

We are kicking off our book review feature today (February 8, 2000) with Howard Aldrich's new oeuvre "Organizations Evolving." (Click on title for table of contents) Hayagreeva Rao and Arthur Stinchcombe have read the book over the holidays for us and we are very pleased to publish their reviews on etss.net. As will be customary for all our reviews, we invited Howard Aldrich to respond to the two evaluations of his book. You can share your views and participate in a discussion of the book by posting a message at the end of the review.

January 2000

Abstracts of important new working papers by Joel Mokyr are now posted.

December 1999

The first book that we will review is Howard Aldrich’s new oeuvre “Organizations Evolving.” (For a table of contents, scroll down to the new book announcements.) I have asked two very competent scholars to share with us their views on Aldrich’s new book. Once we receive their reviews, Howard Aldrich will have the opportunity to respond. The reviews and the potential response will be posted sometime in January and we will then open up a debate on the book in the discussion forum. If you are interested in the world of organizations, you may want to read the book over the break and contribute your views on the book in the discussion forum. Happy Holidays.


November 1999

The Demography of Corporations and Industries

by Glenn R. Carroll and Michael T. Hannan
The publisher’s preview: The Demography of Corporations and Industries is the first book to present the demographic approach to organizational studies in its entirety. It examines the theory, models, methods, and data used in corporate demographic research. Carroll and Hannan explore the processes by which corporate populations change over time, including organizational founding, growth, decline, structural transformation, and mortality. They review and synthesize the major theoretical mechanisms of corporate demography, ranging from aging and size dependence to population segregation and density dependence. The book also explores some selected implications of corporate demography for public policy, including employment and regulation.  Click on the title for a table of contents. Read Boyan Jovanovic’s Review in the JEL.

November 1999

etss.net is evolving…One of the features that we will offer in the future is reviews of books and articles. We will start with books that are just coming out and later review classics.  Check out the abstracts of important new working papers by David Hull and Geoffrey Hodgson


October 1999

Sources of Industrial Leadership: Studies of Seven Industries.

David Mowery and Richard R. Nelson
This book describes and analyzes how seven major high-tech industries evolved in the USA, Japan, and Western Europe. The industries covered are machine tools, organic chemical products, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, computers, semiconductors, and software. In each of these industries, firms located in one or a very few countries became the clear technological and commercial leaders. In number of cases, the locus of leadership changed, sometimes more than once, over the course of the histories studied. The locus of the book is on the key factors that supported the emergence of national leadership in each industry, and the reasons behind the shifts when they occurred. Special attention is given to the national policies which helped to create, or sustain, industrial leadership.  Click on the title for a table of contents.  Read Paul L. Robertson’s Review on eh.net.


October 1999

Unto Others: The Evolution & Psychology of Unselfish Behavior by Elliot Sober & David Sloan Wilson

In Unto Others, philosopher Elliott Sober and biologist David Sloan Wilson bravely attempt to reconcile altruism, both evolutionary and psychological, with the scientific discoveries that seem to portray nature as red in tooth and claw. The first half of the book deals with the evolutionary objection to altruism. For altruistic behavior to be produced by natural selection, it must be possible for natural selection to act on groups—but conventional wisdom holds that group selection was conclusively debunked by George Williams in Adaptation and Natural Selection. Sober and Wilson nevertheless defend group selection, instructively reviewing the arguments against it and citing important work that relies on it. They then discuss group selection in human evolution, testing their conclusions against the anthropological literature.
In the second half of the book, the question is whether any desires are truly altruistic. Sober and Wilson painstakingly examine psychological evidence and philosophical arguments for the existence of altruism, ultimately concluding that neither psychology nor philosophy is likely to decide the question. Fortunately, evolutionary biology comes to the rescue. Sober and Wilson speculate that creatures with truly altruistic desires are reproductively fitter than creatures without—altruists, in short, make better parents than do egoists.
Rich in information and insight, Unto Others is a book that will be seriously considered by biologists, philosophers, anthropologists, and psychologists alike. The interested amateur may find it difficult in places but worth the effort overall.—Glenn Branch

September 1999

I will be teaching a Ph.D. seminar next April, which I have tentatively titled “Evolutionary Theories of Organization.” In preparation for the seminar, I started to look for a place on the web that collects information about Evolutionary Theories in the Social Sciences. Because I could not find a comprehensive web site, I decided that it would be beneficial to create such a resource in time for my seminar in March 2000. The outline of the web site is now in place, allowing you to imagine what the site can look like when it is done. Much of the “data” still needs to be filled in. I invite you to make suggestions about the design of this site and, above all, to send me information and links that should be part of the web site. My e-mail address is: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Let’s make this a very useful tool for everyone who is interested in evolutionary thought in the social sciences.

June 27, 1999


An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change

This is a classic in evolutionary economics. Nelson and Winter "argue that the emphasis in theorizing about ('modelling')competition should be on the analysis of evolutionary and revolutionary change (the 'perennial gale of creative destruction,' as Schumpeter put it), ratherthan on the conditions for general or partial equilibrium; that motivation should be Simon's 'satisficing' as 'bounded rationality' within an enormously complex world, rather than the maxima/minima calculation emphasized by orthodox micro theory of the past 40 years." (Choice) Bibliography.

May 27, 1999


Science as a Process

Johann Peter Murmann: Thomas Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" is the most widely read and cited book in the philosophy and sociology of science. If you want an philosophical foundation for an evolutionary view, this is the book you should read and not Kuhn. Hull delivers not only a philosophical foundation for evolutionary theories in the social sciences, but he also provides a wonderful case study of how a school of thought in the world of biological taxonomy won the competition among alternative approaches.

May 1999

Variations in Organization Science: In Honor of Donald T. Campbell

If you are interested in evolutionary theories of organizations, this is a new collection of essays that you want to take a look at. Click on the cover for a table of contents. Joel Baum and Bill Mckelvy have pulled togehter some excellent essays that take stock of Campbell’s contributions to the study of management. See also the bibliography of etss.net to find the most important essays of Campbell on evolutionary theory.

March 27, 1999


At Home in the Universe

Synopsis Kaufman, a MacArthur Fellow and visionary pioneer of the science of complexity, offers a brilliant account of a new scientifc revolution that rivals Darwin's theory of importance. The book illuminates this new paradigm as it weaves together the excitement of discovery and a fertile mix of ideas. Provides stunning insights into the origin of life, the development of embryos and more. This book examines the question: "why is there order in nature? . . . Mr Kauffman argues {that} much order in the natural world arises spontaneously." (Economist) Index.

February 27, 1999


Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

In this "artful, informative, and delightful" (William H. McNeill, New York Review of Books) book, Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed religion --as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war --and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

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