Darwinian Evolutionary Ideas in Business Economics and Organization Studies

Denise E. Dollimore

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis is a study of the use of Darwinian evolutionary ideas in business economics and organization studies. Mindful of the explosion of evolutionary rhetoric in the socio-economic domain over the last three decades and informed by the modern generalized Darwinian perspective, the research has been focused on the evaluation of the precise nature and extent of use of Darwinian ideas in three of the most influential evolutionary accounts in these disciplines. Notably, Nelson and Winter’s Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change (1982), Hannan and Freeman’s Organizational Ecology (1989), and Howard Aldrich’s Organizations Evolving (1999). It is a work of comparative theory.
Also since 1980, theoretical and conceptual advances in evolutionary theory confirmed the generic nature of Darwinian theory and provided generalized terms for its articulation. Whilst some major criticisms of Darwinism are easily dismissed, significantly scholars have shown that Lamarckian acquired character inheritance must be accommodated within the meta-theoretical framework of Darwinism. This study shows that whilst the damaging rhetoric of ‘Social Darwinism’ continues to discourage widespread active engagement with Darwinian theory, the pervasive implicit or ‘covert’ adoption of Darwinian ideas by social scientists nevertheless clearly endorses its general nature, confirms a Darwinian social ontology and underlines the inevitability of Darwinism in the socio-cultural domain.
Following a detailed exposition of general Darwinism, this study presents a forensic comparative evaluation of the evolutionary theories under study, highlighting theoretical gaps and inconsistencies, and demonstrating their resolution within the Darwinian framework. Through the systematic application and dissection of these disparate theories, one of which is labelled ‘Lamarckian’, the analysis shows the deep extent to which they all are Darwinian. And furthermore, underlining the promise of the Darwinian system for yielding further results, the study clearly illustrates the importance of the explicit adoption of modern Darwinian concepts for helping scholars to understand the complex evolutionary processes they seek to explain
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Hertfordshire
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2006


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