Routines, Genes and Program-Based Behaviour

Papers on Economics and Evolution No. 0402, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Jena

Posted: 13 Nov 2010

See all articles by Jack J. Vromen

Jack J. Vromen

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR), Faculty of Philosophy, Erasmus Institute for Philosophy and Economics (EIPE)

Date Written: 2004

Abstract

It is argued that the ‘routines as genes’ analogy is misleading in several respects. Neither genes nor routines program behaviour, if this is taken to involve, first, that they determine behaviour and, second, that they do so in a way that excludes conscious, deliberate choice. On a proper understanding of ‘gene’ and ‘routine’, knowledge of genes and routines falls far short of predicting behaviour. Furthermore, conscious, deliberate choice is not ruled out when genes or routines are operating. There is a sense in which it can be maintained that genes are (or act as) programs and that individual behaviour is based on them. Such programs might display considerable stability, but their causal impact on behaviour is so remote and indirect that knowing them has little predictive power. It might be possible to identify programs also at levels of organization higher than that of genes that have greater predictive power, but such programs are likely to be unstable over time. On a non-inflationary understanding of ‘routines’, individual organization members can be viewed as programs on which the smooth functioning of routines is based. This is a far cry from the claim that routines determine firm behaviour, let alone from the claim that they are key success variables in explaining how well (in terms of profitability) firms perform.

Keywords: routines, genes, program-based behaviour, proximate causes of individual and firm behaviour

JEL Classification: A12, B41, B52, D21, D23

Suggested Citation

Vromen, Jack J., Routines, Genes and Program-Based Behaviour (2004). Papers on Economics and Evolution No. 0402, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Jena. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1706747

Jack J. Vromen (Contact Author)

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR), Faculty of Philosophy, Erasmus Institute for Philosophy and Economics (EIPE) ( email )

P.O. Box 1738
EIPE Office, Room H5-23
3000 Dr Rotterdam
Netherlands

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