DARWIN ON MARKETS AND HIERARCHIES

James F. Guyot, 26 August 1998
School of Public Affairs


The paired Darwinian concepts of natural selection and artificial selection provide a metaphor for explaining to undergraduates in an introductory public administration course the organizational-economic alternatives of markets or hierarchies as modes of communication, decision, and coordination. In a market process, as in natural selection, a diffuse and shifting environment defines fitness (which price is right for which qualities and quantities in exchange) while in a hierarchical process a single body operating under a scientific doctrine defines and enforces the fitness (efficiency) criterion. This conceptual module introduces the course discussion of market failures and governmental regulation, non-market failures and deregulation or privatization.

I have found this dichotomous metaphor helpful as well in my own research on the feminization of power. Here an additional Darwinian formulation, the proposition that males run to extremes (The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex), enlightens our understanding of differences in the shape and rates of the feminization of power positions in organizations under either market (natural selection by competitive election) or hierarchical (the art of affirmative action) regimes. This line of inquire suggests other areas where teaching modules utilizing Darwinism might be developed.

Essay: How Can We Achieve Gender Equity if Males Run to Extremes?


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Last updated 27 August 1998 (JFG/JHW)