Entrepreneurship, knowledge and employment

Emergence instead of Equilibrium: the case of Ludwig Lachmann

Gloria Sandye, UCA Gredeg

Emergence is one central concept defining the hard core of the new alternative paradigm of complexity economics. It replaces the core concept of equilibrium central to mainstream economics. We examine in this paper the consequences of the total abandon of the equilibrium reference in the theory of the market process as it is elaborated by Lachmann. The author positions itself in the continuity of the Austrian-Mengerian tradition committed in particular with dynamic subjectivism. As a result of the extention of subjectivism to expectations, Lachmann elaborates an original theory of the market process as a continuous process with no beginning nor end, guided in an unpredictable way by equilibrating and disequilibrating forces. His theory of the market process is often criticized for theoretical nihilism. It is our purpose to show that this critic does not hold as soon as one accept the whole consequences of the adoption by Lachmann of a distinct conceptual framework. The author does not only abandon equilibrium but the whole formalist apparatus attached to it and adopts in place a causal-genetic framework associated with the alternative idea of emergence. Appraised according to the standards of the equilibrium formalist framework, Lachmann's theory is nihilist; but appraised according to its own (constructivist) standards, lachmann's theory does offer an acceptable and interesting explanation of the market process. This theory allows for an understanding (not in the formalist sense but in the causal-genetic sense) of the emergence of a viable decentralized institutional order. We will begin with a presentation of the originality of Lachmann's theory and of the causal-genetic background; we will then examine more specifically the concept of emergence upon which the author relies, compare it with Hayek's conception of order and finally, we could address the criticism of theoretical nihilism and appraise its relevance in this context.

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Keywords: Complexity, Emergence, Causal-genetic framwork, market process, Lachmann.

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