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    Rotterdam School of Management
    E-humanities group of the KNAW
    Erasmus Studio, Erasmus University Rotterdam
    Gephi Consortium

    Why were biological analogies in economics “a bad thing”? Edith Penrose’s battles against social Darwinism and McCarthyism

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    The heuristic value of evolutionary biology for economics is still much under debate. We suggest that in addition to analytical considerations, socio-cultural values can well be at stake in this issue. To demonstrate it, we use a historical case and focus on the criticism of biological analogies in the theory of the firm formulated by economist Edith Penrose in post-war United States. We find that in addition to the analytical arguments developed in her paper, she perceived that biological analogies were suspect of a conservative bias – as in social Darwinism. We explain this perception by documenting the broader context of Edith Penrose’s personal and professional evolution, from her student days at Berkeley to her defense of Owen Lattimore against McCarthyism. We conclude that in the case under study at least, science and values were certainly intertwined in accounting for her skepticism towards biological analogies – insight we develop in the conclusion about today’s relationships between biology and economics.

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    Title : Why were biological analogies in economics “a bad thing”? Edith Penrose’s battles against social Darwinism and McCarthyism
    Author(s) : Clement Levallois
    Abstract : The heuristic value of evolutionary biology for economics is still much under debate. We suggest that in addition to analytical considerations, socio-cultural values can well be at stake in this issue. To demonstrate it, we use a historical case and focus on the criticism of biological analogies in the theory of the firm formulated by economist Edith Penrose in post-war United States. We find that in addition to the analytical arguments developed in her paper, she perceived that biological analogies were suspect of a conservative bias – as in social Darwinism. We explain this perception by documenting the broader context of Edith Penrose’s personal and professional evolution, from her student days at Berkeley to her defense of Owen Lattimore against McCarthyism. We conclude that in the case under study at least, science and values were certainly intertwined in accounting for her skepticism towards biological analogies – insight we develop in the conclusion about today’s relationships between biology and economics.
    Keywords : history of economics, cold war, social darwinism, mccarthyism, Edith Penrose

    Subject : unspecified
    Area : Social Sciences
    Language : English
    Year : 2011

    Affiliations Rotterdam School of Management
    Journal : Science in Context

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    Clement's Peer Evaluation activity

    Trusted by 4
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    • Aalam Wassef, Publisher, Founder of Peer Evaluation, Galerie Conradi.
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