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Sexual Selection: A Missing Link in Evolutionary Theories of the Firm?

J.W. Stoelhorst & Winfried Ruigrok

abstract Biological theory has long been a source of inspiration for economists, and the analogy between market competition and what Darwin called ‘the struggle for existence’ has informed both neoclassical and heterodox views of the firm. What has gone largely unnoticed, however, is that Darwin’s theory of evolution rests on two pillars. In nature, the process of ‘survival selection’ that has inspired economists is complemented by ‘sexual selection’. Sexual selection is a fundamentally different process from survival selection and can lead to very different selective outcomes. This paper explores how the notion of sexual selection can inform economic theory. We argue that sexual selection theory provides the ontological foundation for incorporating social aspects of human organization into evolutionary theories of the firm. This foundation provides the basis for a theory that can explain differences between firms that theories based on survival selection alone cannot. Moreover, in contrast to the optimality arguments that have been made on the basis of the logic of survival selection alone, a theory of the firm that also incorporates the logic of sexual selection would predict that firms may evolve stable characteristics that are deleterious from the point of view of their efficiency in product markets.
   
type working paper (English)
   
keywords Generalized Darwinism; Theory of the firm; Ontological foundations
   
date of appearance 2006
review not reviewed
   
citation Stoelhorst, J., & Ruigrok, W. (2006). Sexual Selection: A Missing Link in Evolutionary Theories of the Firm?.