Review of Behavioral Economics > Vol 2 > Issue 1-2

An Anaytical Core for Sociology: A Complex, Hayekian Analysis

Paul Lewis, Department of Political Economy, King’s College London, UK
Suggested Citation
Paul Lewis (2015), "An Anaytical Core for Sociology: A Complex, Hayekian Analysis", Review of Behavioral Economics: Vol. 2: No. 1-2, pp 123-146.

Publication Date: 29 Jul 2015
© 2015 P. Lewis


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In this article:
1. Introduction 
2. Complex Systems, Emergence, and the Irreducibility of Social Laws 
3. The Dynamic Analysis of Emergent Properties: Group Selection and Cultural Evolution 
4. Aspects of Human Agency: Rational Choice Theory, Social Preferences, Radical Uncertainty, and Hayek’s The Sensory Order 
5. Emergence, Novelty, Uncertainty, and Conceptions of Order 
6. Conclusion 


This paper elaborates on a feature of Gintis and Helbing’s “nalytical core for sociology” that they mention but do not discuss in detail, namely its portrayal of the economy as a complex adaptive system. The Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek’s work on complex systems is used as a point of comparison to highlight certain important features of Gintis and Helbing’s approach, in particular: its (non-reductionist) emphasis on the importance of emergent properties for explaining the working of the mind and the market; the role of evolutionary development through group selection; and the importance of motivations stemming from so-called “social preferences”. Other, potentially important implications of a complex systems perspective to which Gintis and Helbing arguably do not do justice, concerning in particular the possibility and implications of radical uncertainty and the suitability of the notion of general equilibrium for conceptualizing the order exhibited by complex systems, are also considered.