Science and Market as Adaptive Classifying Systems

Advances in Austrian Economics, Volume 9 (2007), 51-86

36 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2015

Date Written: July 14, 2005


Insights from the cognitive sciences into the structure and functioning of the brain as an adaptive system can be deployed in the understanding of complex systems in general – and of the specific social complexes of market and science in particular. Science and market, as institutional arrangements, have many similarities but also significant differences. The theoretical challenge this presents is, first, to develop a model of social structure that encompasses both science and market and accounts for these similarities and differences in a natural way and, second, to show how this model can be employed to further the understanding of phenomena in both domains. The thrust of this paper is to meet that challenge by developing the idea of the adaptive classifying system as a general model of social structure, showing how science and market can be understood as different concrete implementations of the same abstract structure, and pointing by example to specific ways in which this approach to social theory can be fruitfully applied.

Keywords: social theory, cognition, adaptation, markets, science, classification, Hayek

JEL Classification: A12, A14, B52

Suggested Citation

McQuade, Thomas, Science and Market as Adaptive Classifying Systems (July 14, 2005). Advances in Austrian Economics, Volume 9 (2007), 51-86, Available at SSRN:

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