chapter  1
21 Pages

Towards a Developmental Turn in Evolutionary Economic Geography?

ByRon Martin, Peter Sunley

To compoundmatters, recent debates in evolutionary biology itself involve a major reassessment of the Darwinian-infused model. TheModern Synthesis, essentially a synthesis of neo-Darwinism andMendelism, has defined evolutionary theory since the 1940s (FUTUYMA, 1988). Over recent decades, however, there have been increasing moves to overcome what an expanding number of evolutionary theorists see as key limitations of the Modern Synthesis, including the tenets of VSR. These limitations are seen by a growing number of theorists as deriving in large part from the relative isolation of developmental biology from evolutionary biology. How to reconcile and integrate these two sciences has been discussed intermittently for some time, but recently two new synthesizing endeavours have emerged that represent major steps in this direction, namely: Evolutionary Developmental Biology (EDB), or ‘evo-devo’ to use its commonly employed sobriquet, and Developmental Systems Theory (DST). Both, in their different ways, seek to expound how developmental processes effect evolutionary change and how development itself has evolved. Both seek to move beyond the ‘gene-centred’ approach of the Darwinian Modern Synthesis to recognize the multilevel and non-genetic aspects of evolution. And, importantly, both allow environmental and contextual resources and influences to have a formative role in how development and evolution co-interact. Of the two approaches, EDB retains the closest links with the Modern Synthesis, whereas DST is more radical in its approach. Furthermore, although EDB and DST derive from different basic conceptualizations of how evolution and development are (or should be) related, some of their tenets are not that dissimilar, and there is increasing interest in creating bridges between the two perspectives. Both seem to offer the prospect of a more pluralistic and systemic or holistic theory of evolution, one that incorporates additional levels of explanation than that provided by the Darwinian Modern Synthesis. Interestingly, some evolutionary anthropologists and cultural theorists have begun to examine EDB to ascertain what its implications might be for their disciplines (e.g., MESOUDI et al., 2006; WIMSATT, 2006; SMITH and RUPPLE, 2011), and behavioural psychologists are applying DST in their field

(e.g., LERNER, 2006; MASTEN and OBRADOVIC, 2006). Economists appear about to embark on similar exploratory expeditions (for example, see PELIKAN, 2011, and COCHRANE and MACCLAURIN, 2012, on the relevance of EDB for evolutionary economics). It is worth exploring, therefore, what the implications might be for EEG.