Summary

Bubbles and bankruptcies, crashes and crises - the economics and business management domains are at yet another crossroads. In order to examine these recent conundrums, we return to the classic questions that have been posed by evolutionary and complexity theorists in the economics and sociology literatures for decades: 'Why do firms in the same industry vary systematically in performance over time?' Seeking a systematic explanation of a longitudinal phenomenon inevitably requires characterising the evolution of the industrial ecosystem, as both the organization (firm) and its environment (markets, institutions and industries) are co-evolving. Additionally, an interesting subset of the above question which is becoming increasingly relevant in today's focus on sustainability is: 'How do firms that have a stakeholder approach differ in competitiveness from firms that maximise stockholder wealth?'

This interdisciplinary, multi-level, systems research lies at the intersection of the social sciences, natural sciences and humanities. It explores the complementary roles of formal quantitative models, qualitative metaphors and rational myths in understanding and explaining how complex socio-political-economic ecosystems evolve. More specifically, it focuses on the evolution of competition and cooperation and the emergence of inter-species competition in human social systems. In the process, it aims to shed new light on evolution-development-ecology interactions and in particular on the evolution vs. 'intelligent design' debate, where we are seeking 'natural' (as opposed to 'supernatural') explanations, focusing primarily on cultural and ecological (as opposed to genetic) inheritance mechanisms.

We aim to build theoretical frameworks in the social science domains of economics, management and politics, using formal mathematical models from the natural science domains of ecological, developmental and evolutionary biology, and interpretivist methodologies from the humanities-based domains of philosophy, history and language. Our 'fit-form-function-performance' economics framework, begins to capture the biological processes of ecology-morphology-physiology-evolution. By engaging non-adjacent academic disciplines having significant variance in epistemological/ontological bases – 'wicked interdisciplinarity' – we hope to unlock discipline-based orthodoxies and begin to develop novel insights for academic theory and practice (both at micro firm-level strategy and macro nation-level policy).

Programme

Our seminars series held during the 2011-2012 academic year will present guest speakers from the fields of social sciences, natural sciences and humanities. Our aim is to gather interest from graduate students and scholars in order to grow various research initiatives and activities (such as D.Phil. projects, publications, collaborations with other institutions), some of which would provide a platform to raise research funding for postdocs. and DPhil grants.

Convenors: Dr Sophie Marnette (Balliol) and Dr Theodore Piepenbrock (LSE, MIT and Oxford)

Email tfp@mit.edu to be added to our mailing list and RSVP.