The Claims of Generalized Darwinism

Philosophy of Management 17 (2):149-167 (2018)
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Abstract

Generalized Darwinism (GD) claims to be a conceptual and theoretical framework for researching evolutionary change processes in organizations. This paper examines the claims of GD. It finds that in contrast to Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection proper, the GD framework is not an explanatory deductive argument form. What it is that GD actually generalizes and intends to explain thereby becomes somewhat moot. It is proposed that the so-called ‘generalization’ that the GD framework supplies might be best understood schematically. Two general schemata that purport to distil commonalities between processes of organizational evolution and biological evolution are thereby identified. But in considering the applicability of the two schemata to organizational evolution, criticism reveals one to be problematic, whereas the other one, to which the GD programme collapses if the problematical schema is dispensed with, has been long associated with another so-called ‘evolutionary approach’ to the understanding of social change: Sir Karl Popper’s ‘evolutionary epistemology’. The paper concludes that if the research problem is to account for the evolutionary character of social and organizational change, then theorists need not commit to the GD framework. They may elect to use Popper’s evolutionary epistemology instead.

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