The last two decades have seen an explosion of research in economics inspired by evolutionary thinking. There has been an upsurge in the number of publications addressing evolutionary themes, paralleled by the foundation of new journals and new academic societies devoted to the subject matter. Heterodox contributions in themselves do not yet signal any extraordinary event; in fact, the ongoing challenge of the received view is part and parcel of the theoretical discourse of any ‘normal’ science. What gives the recent advances in this field – grouped loosely under the heading ‘evolutionary economics’ – their distinct hallmark are the rapid pace and persistent power of the underlying intellectual dynamic. The 1982 book by Richard Nelson and Sydney Winter on An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change has served as an ice-breaker that arguably gave the early process its critical momentum. In their contributions to this volume, these authors address one of the core issues of evolutionary economics: the change of economic knowledge as it applies to technology and production.
What are the factors that may conceivably account for the present dynamism of evolutionary economics? We get a first hint when we consider that, in their field of study, orthodox economists encounter decreasing marginal returns with respect to new theoretical findings per additional unit of research effort or research time.