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J. Open Innov. Technol. Mark. Complex. 2017, 3(3), 12; (registering DOI)

Capitalism as a complex adaptive system and its growth

Max Planck Institute of Economics, Jena, Germany
Griffith Business School, Griffith University, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia
Received: 11 July 2017 / Accepted: 8 August 2017 / Published: 19 August 2017
PDF [447 KB, uploaded 8 February 2018]


Complex adaptive systems consist of a multitude of agents from whose individual adaptation efforts the adaptive behavior of the system as a whole emerges. In this paper it will be argued that capitalism is a complex adaptive system. Except for its particular mode of production many of its features are typical for such a system. A case in point is the way in which economic growth emerges as a collective outcome of individual adaptation strategies. The complex adaptive systems perspective offers a particular explanation for why the successive extension of the bounds of existing production possibilities is unsteady and rather wasteful in capitalism. Moreover, the strategies by which the agents try to adapt to crises – many of which imply some form of innovations – do not necessarily contribute to a re-emergence of new growth impulses. It is shown that the empirical record of economic growth in the most developed economies indeed reveals a trend of declining growth rates. This seems to suggest that successfully creating new economic growth through innovative strategies is the more difficult, the more prosperous an economy becomes. The paper discusses what can be conjectured to be the cause of this development and what to do about it.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Witt, U. Capitalism as a complex adaptive system and its growth. J. Open Innov. Technol. Mark. Complex. 2017, 3, 12.

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J. Open Innov. Technol. Mark. Complex. EISSN 2199-8531 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert
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