February 1, 2001

Politics, Markets, and Social Change

  • Chris Mantzavinos

    Chair in Economics and Philosophy, University of Witten/Herdecke
Key materials
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The overall goal of the series of three workshops on "Knowledge, Social Change and Economic Performance" is to bridge the gap between the recent findings of modern cognitive science and the social sciences. The first workshop was focussed mainly on learning processes and among the many topics that have been discussed were the role of binding in internal brain processes (Damasio), the role of external representation in cognition (Zhang), and how beliefs emerge. Donald's theory of the origin of the human mind and Cosmides' work on evolutionary psychology acquired a prominent place in our discussion. One main outcome of the dialogue was a better understanding of the interaction between genetic and cultural evolution.

In the second workshop on "Beliefs, Institutions and Social Change" four broad themes have been discussed: a) the role of tacit knowledge in the technology transfer and how tacit knowledge can be best explained using the instruments of the cognitive sciences; b) how institutions can be best conceptualized as shared problem solutions or shared mental models and how a process of shared learning looks like, c) how knowledge acquisition is interwoven with differential distributional consequences and how one can best analyze the genuinely political characteristics of this process; d) the complications that arise if one takes into consideration that under conditions of division of labor the members of a society willing to trade must decide how to use their limited cognitive capacities best.

The third workshop built on the outcome of the first two in the sense that the participants came to it with a deeper understanding concerning the relationship between cognition, belief systems and institutions. This document addresses the four central questions as well as some of the main arguments presented in the discussion.