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Evolutionary economics is part of mainstream economics as well as a heterodox school of economic thought that is inspired by evolutionary biology. Much like mainstream economics, it stresses complex interdependencies, competition, growth, structural change, and resource constraints but differs in the approaches which are used to analyze these phenomena. Some scholars prefer to call their evolutionary theory by a different names. Samuel Bowles named it "evolutionary social science" and Joachim Rennstich called it "evolutionary systems theory".
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Evolutionary economics deals with the study of processes that transform economy for firms, institutions, industries, employment, production, trade and growth within, through the actions of diverse agents from experience and interactions, using evolutionary methodology. Evolutionary economics analyzes the unleashing of a process of technological and institutional innovation by generating and testing a diversity of ideas which discover and accumulate more survival value for the costs incurred than competing alternatives. The evidence suggests that it could be adaptive efficiency that defines economic efficiency. Mainstream economic reasoning begins with the postulates of scarcity and rational agents (that is, agents modeled as maximizing their individual welfare), with the "rational choice" for any agent being a straightforward exercise in mathematical optimization. There has been renewed interest in treating economic systems as evolutionary systems in the developing field of Complexity economics.
Evolutionary economics does not take the characteristics of either the objects of choice or of the decision-maker as fixed. Rather, its focus is on the non-equilibrium processes that transform the economy from within and their implications. The processes in turn emerge from actions of diverse agents with bounded rationality who may learn from experience and interactions and whose differences contribute to the change. The subject draws more recently on evolutionary game theory and on the evolutionary methodology of Charles Darwin and the non-equilibrium economics principle of circular and cumulative causation. It is naturalistic in purging earlier notions of economic change as teleological or necessarily improving the human condition.
A different approach is to apply evolutionary psychology principles to economics which is argued to explain problems such as inconsistencies and biases in rational choice theory. Basic economic concepts such as utility may be better viewed as due to preferences that maximized evolutionary fitness in the ancestral environment but not necessarily in the current one.