The term exaptation, coined by Gould and Vrba, refers to those characters that are useful for survival but that were not selected for this purpose. In this paper I will focus on the notion of exaptation in socio economic systems and on its implications for a theory of economic change. In socio-economic systems, an exaptation is the result of a process through which the initial attribution of new functionalities to existing socio-economic entities (agents, artifacts, social institutions) leads to new entities and new relationships between entities. The notion of exaptation forces to examine the processes of change in socio-economic systems in terms of an interaction-based ontology that I will provide, following the complexity theory of innovation. I will use this ontology to highlight how processes of economic change can be analysed in terms of emergent phenomena and in particular in terms of the emergence of new specific functionalities and qualitatively new entities and relationships. I will refer these processes to the relationships between agent and artifacts, and to the organization of the economy and society. This second type of process of emergence will be examined with reference to the changing characteristics and functions of the division of labour emerging from the historical processes of interaction between quantitative and qualitative changes of production relations. I will conclude that economic change cannot be analysed in terms of a mere recombination of existing things or in terms of selection-variation mechanisms. It must be analysed through the dynamic historical process by which “a new thing leads to another”. In these processes of transformation the causality links are themselves the results of processes in which ex ante potential causality links can be transformed into different (and new) effective (or actual) causality links.

Bonifati, Giovanni. "The implications of the concept of exaptation for a theory of economic change" Working paper, DEMB WORKING PAPER SERIES, Dipartimento di Economia Marco Biagi - Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia, 2015. https://doi.org/10.25431/11380_1082247

The implications of the concept of exaptation for a theory of economic change

BONIFATI, Giovanni
2015

Abstract

The term exaptation, coined by Gould and Vrba, refers to those characters that are useful for survival but that were not selected for this purpose. In this paper I will focus on the notion of exaptation in socio economic systems and on its implications for a theory of economic change. In socio-economic systems, an exaptation is the result of a process through which the initial attribution of new functionalities to existing socio-economic entities (agents, artifacts, social institutions) leads to new entities and new relationships between entities. The notion of exaptation forces to examine the processes of change in socio-economic systems in terms of an interaction-based ontology that I will provide, following the complexity theory of innovation. I will use this ontology to highlight how processes of economic change can be analysed in terms of emergent phenomena and in particular in terms of the emergence of new specific functionalities and qualitatively new entities and relationships. I will refer these processes to the relationships between agent and artifacts, and to the organization of the economy and society. This second type of process of emergence will be examined with reference to the changing characteristics and functions of the division of labour emerging from the historical processes of interaction between quantitative and qualitative changes of production relations. I will conclude that economic change cannot be analysed in terms of a mere recombination of existing things or in terms of selection-variation mechanisms. It must be analysed through the dynamic historical process by which “a new thing leads to another”. In these processes of transformation the causality links are themselves the results of processes in which ex ante potential causality links can be transformed into different (and new) effective (or actual) causality links.
Dicembre
Bonifati, Giovanni
Bonifati, Giovanni. "The implications of the concept of exaptation for a theory of economic change" Working paper, DEMB WORKING PAPER SERIES, Dipartimento di Economia Marco Biagi - Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia, 2015. https://doi.org/10.25431/11380_1082247
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