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Complexity and EvolutionToward a New Synthesis for Economics$
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David S Wilson and Alan Kirman

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262035385

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262035385.001.0001

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Adaptation and Maladaptation in the Past

Adaptation and Maladaptation in the Past

A Case Study And Some Implications

Chapter:
(p.239) 13 Adaptation and Maladaptation in the Past
Source:
Complexity and Evolution
Author(s):

Sander E. van der Leeuw

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262035385.003.0013

Adaptation and maladaptation are best viewed as different phases in the relationship between a society and its (social and natural) environment. This chapter looks at that relationship over two scales (millennial and centennial) and attributes the transitions (“tipping points”) between adaptation and maladaptation to the unintended consequences of human actions. These, in turn, are due to the difference in dimensionality between the environment and humans’ perception of it. Transitions between adaptation and maladaptation occur when a society’s “value space” (i.e., the total set of values that the society knows, which keep that society functionally together) does not expand at a sufficient pace to keep up with the growth of the society’s population. This chapter argues that this is the case in the current, western-dominated global system, and suggests that an inversion of global information flows (i.e., spreading information rather than concentrating it in the West) has the potential to reenergize the global economic system. This needs to be achieved while respecting the environment, hence the term green growth. It implies rephrasing the current economic and political debates from “burden sharing” to “opportunity creation,” both for the developing and for the developed world.

Keywords:   Strüngmann Forum Reports, adaptation, burden sharing, crises, innovation, maladaptation, opportunity creation, societal transitions, value space

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