The Darwinian Foundation of Institutions
Arruñada, Benito, and Xosé H. Vázquez (2013), “The Darwinian Foundation of Institutions,” in G. Caballero and X.C. Arias, eds., Nuevo institucionalismo: Gobernanza, economía y políticas públicas, Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas, Madrid, 41-59.
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Findings in cognition have triggered a scientific revolution of Copernican proportions in the social sciences and demand a reconsideration of standard assumptions about human behavior, related to both rationality and cooperation. This work reviews some of these findings and examines some of its consequences for the analysis of institutions and organizations. It starts by exploring the consequences of our specialization in producing knowledge. This has ensured our success in dominating the environment but has also changed it radically. So radically that, to be adapted, we need institutions, which fill the gap between our biology, adapted to our ancestral environment and our relatively new environment.
The analysis will proceed in four stages. First, it will examine how the specialization on human beings in cognition leads to a modular design of the human mind and how it grants both biological success and maladaptation. Next, it will explore the consequences of this view, in terms of modular instincts and environmental maladaptation, for the two key behavioral assumptions, those of rationality and cooperation. Lastly, it will explain institutions as technologies that allow us to fill the gap in our innate maladaptation, a job for which institutions often recruit instincts originally designed for other purposes. This will allow us to examine some consequences for management and policymaking.