Catalogue


Nature : an economic history /
Geerat J. Vermeij.
imprint
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c2004.
description
xiii, 445 p. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
0691115273 (cl : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c2004.
isbn
0691115273 (cl : alk. paper)
catalogue key
5258391
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [371]-429) and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Geerat J. Vermeij is Distinguished Professor of Geology at the University of California, Davis.
Excerpts
Flap Copy
"A hugely impressive, tremendously rich book that I read with admiration and fascination. One of the most interesting intellectuals of our age, Geerat Vermeij writes with verve and grace, and he is willing, indeed eager, to take risks in order to look at the (very) big picture. His book is chock-full of knowledge and wisdom as well as keen and succinct original insights. It will be widely read and admired."--Joel Mokyr, Northwestern University, author ofThe Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy "Both ecological systems and economic systems are complex and adaptive, with self-organization and evolutionary change coupled in each; but the analogy is deeper, extending to the fundamental nature of how these systems are organized. This is the basic theme of Vermeij's masterful and scholarly book. From a biological point of view, Nature is a remarkable synthesis. Few people could have ventured out of their disciplines with such insights."--Simon A. Levin, Princeton University "Fascinating. Above and beyond enriching our understanding of evolution per se, this engagingly written book, which I am very glad to have read, helps us think about where we as a species may be headed in the future. What more can you ask for?"--Kenneth Pomeranz, University of California, Irvine, author ofThe Great Divergence "An important and well-written contribution to evolutionary biology. Analogies between ecology/evolution and economics were 'subliminally' apparent to Darwin, many have developed particular analogies quite explicitly, and economists have looked to evolutionary biology to explain why human beings engage in irrational forms of altruism. Vermeij develops these analogies in a far more synoptic and comprehensive manner than anyone has before."--Egbert G. Leigh, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, author ofTropical Forest Ecology
Flap Copy
"A hugely impressive, tremendously rich book that I read with admiration and fascination. One of the most interesting intellectuals of our age, Geerat Vermeij writes with verve and grace, and he is willing, indeed eager, to take risks in order to look at the (very) big picture. His book is chock-full of knowledge and wisdom as well as keen and succinct original insights. It will be widely read and admired."-- Joel Mokyr, Northwestern University, author of The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy "Both ecological systems and economic systems are complex and adaptive, with self-organization and evolutionary change coupled in each; but the analogy is deeper, extending to the fundamental nature of how these systems are organized. This is the basic theme of Vermeij's masterful and scholarly book. From a biological point of view, Nature is a remarkable synthesis. Few people could have ventured out of their disciplines with such insights."-- Simon A. Levin, Princeton University "Fascinating. Above and beyond enriching our understanding of evolution per se, this engagingly written book, which I am very glad to have read, helps us think about where we as a species may be headed in the future. What more can you ask for?"-- Kenneth Pomeranz, University of California, Irvine, author of The Great Divergence "An important and well-written contribution to evolutionary biology. Analogies between ecology/evolution and economics were 'subliminally' apparent to Darwin, many have developed particular analogies quite explicitly, and economists have looked to evolutionary biology to explain why human beings engage in irrational forms of altruism. Vermeij develops these analogies in a far more synoptic and comprehensive manner than anyone has before."-- Egbert G. Leigh, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, author of Tropical Forest Ecology
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2005-07-01:
There are clear analogies between economics and biological evolution, but the thesis of this articulate essay is that both fields can and should be described in exactly the same terms in a single theoretical framework. That framework is not an abstract formalism--quite the reverse. In successive chapters describing consumption of resources, competition, organization, environment and geography, evolutionary biologist Vermeij (Univ. of California, Davis) illustrates, with copious examples from paleontology, ecology, and economic history, the overarching common description of competition for locally scare resources and differential success based on variation, leading to evolving adaptations and descent with modification. Although thus a work of unification and one that applies evolutionary thinking to human history, Vermeij is too respectful of the uniqueness of biological and evolutional phenomena to endorse crude social Darwinism or easy sociobiological explanations of human institutions. The full ambition of his synthesis emerges in the last chapters, with his controversial claim to find "directedness" or historical trends in evolutionary and economic history: an inexorable trend toward greater productivity and control over resources. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students through professionals. D. Bantz University of Alaska
Reviews
Review Quotes
Geerat Vermeij . . . has taken economic reasoning even further, arguing inNature: An Economic Historythat economists and natural scientists are asking the same kinds of questions in their seemingly disparate fields. . . . Vermeij makes a convincing case that thinking about large swaths of the natural world in terms of competition for scarce resources is both accurate and useful.
"Geerat Vermeij . . . has taken economic reasoning even further, arguing in Nature: An Economic History that economists and natural scientists are asking the same kinds of questions in their seemingly disparate fields. . . . Vermeij makes a convincing case that thinking about large swaths of the natural world in terms of competition for scarce resources is both accurate and useful."-- Andrew P. Morriss, Books & Culture
Novel and intriguing. . . . [Nature: An Economic History] offers a distinctive point of view and an insightful synthesis that promises to provide the basis of much future work.
"Novel and intriguing. . . . [ Nature: An Economic History ] offers a distinctive point of view and an insightful synthesis that promises to provide the basis of much future work."-- Douglas H. Erwin, Science
There are clear analogies between economics and biological evolution, but the thesis of this articulate essay is that both fields can and should be described in exactly the same terms in a single theoretical framework. . . . In successive chapters describing consumption of resources, competition, organization, environment and geography, evolutionary biologist Vermeij illustrates, with copious examples from paleontology, ecology, and economic history, the overarching common description of competition for locally scarce resources and differential success based on variation, leading to evolving adaptations and descent with modification.
Vermeij, a well-known paleontologist and observer of nature writ large, has written a marvelously interdisciplinary work that makes an important contribtuion to the literature of complex adaptive systems. . . . [R]eaders who are interested in multidisciplinary issues will benefit from Vermeij's impressive breadth of knowledge. It is a pleasure to follow his articulate and synthesizing trek across the boundaries of conventional academic subjects.
"Vermeij, a well-known paleontologist and observer of nature writ large, has written a marvelously interdisciplinary work that makes an important contribtuion to the literature of complex adaptive systems. . . . [R]eaders who are interested in multidisciplinary issues will benefit from Vermeij's impressive breadth of knowledge. It is a pleasure to follow his articulate and synthesizing trek across the boundaries of conventional academic subjects."-- Eric J. Chaisson, Quarterly Review of Biology
Vermeij is one of the master naturalists of our time, and his command of the subtleties of animal interactions is exceptional. I think anyone can learn a great deal from this book.
"Vermeij is one of the master naturalists of our time, and his command of the subtleties of animal interactions is exceptional. I think anyone can learn a great deal from this book."-- Richard K. Bambach, American Scientist
"Vermeij presents a natural history written in what he considers economic terms and argues that biologists should know more about economics. While the exchanges between economics and biology can sometimes be hazardous and misleading, quite a bit could be learned by economists from reading this book."-- Joel Mokyr, Journal of Economic Literature
Winner of the 2004 Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Book in Geology and Earth Science, Association of American Publishers
A hugely impressive, tremendously rich book that I read with admiration and fascination. One of the most interesting intellectuals of our age, Geerat Vermeij writes with verve and grace, and he is willing, indeed eager, to take risks in order to look at the (very) big picture. His book is chock-full of knowledge and wisdom as well as keen and succinct original insights. It will be widely read and admired.
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, July 2005
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Bowker Data Service Summary
Vermeij explores biological and geological systems to show how economic processes - competition, cooperation, adaptation, and feedback - govern evolution as surely as they do the human economy, and how historical patterns in evolution follow from this pattern.
Main Description
From humans to hermit crabs to deep water plankton, all living things compete for locally limiting resources. This universal truth unites three bodies of thought--economics, evolution, and history--that have developed largely in mutual isolation. Here, Geerat Vermeij undertakes a groundbreaking and provocative exploration of the facts and theories of biology, economics, and geology to show how processes common to all economic systems--competition, cooperation, adaptation, and feedback--govern evolution as surely as they do the human economy, and how historical patterns in both human and nonhuman evolution follow from this principle. Using a wealth of examples of evolutionary innovations, Vermeij argues that evolution and economics are one. Powerful consumers and producers exercise disproportionate controls on the characteristics, activities, and distribution of all life forms. Competition-driven demand by consumers, when coupled with supply-side conditions permitting economic growth, leads to adaptation and escalation among organisms. Although disruptions in production halt or reverse these processes temporarily, they amplify escalation in the long run to produce trends in all economic systems toward greater power, higher production rates, and a wider reach for economic systems and their strongest members. Despite our unprecedented power to shape our surroundings, we humans are subject to all the economic principles and historical trends that emerged at life's origin more than 3 billion years ago. Engagingly written, brilliantly argued, and sweeping in scope,Nature: An Economic Historyshows that the human institutions most likely to preserve opportunity and adaptability are, after all, built like successful living things.
Main Description
From humans to hermit crabs to deep water plankton, all living things compete for locally limiting resources. This universal truth unites three bodies of thought--economics, evolution, and history--that have developed largely in mutual isolation. Here, Geerat Vermeij undertakes a groundbreaking and provocative exploration of the facts and theories of biology, economics, and geology to show how processes common to all economic systems--competition, cooperation, adaptation, and feedback--govern evolution as surely as they do the human economy, and how historical patterns in both human and nonhuman evolution follow from this principle. Using a wealth of examples of evolutionary innovations, Vermeij argues that evolution and economics are one. Powerful consumers and producers exercise disproportionate controls on the characteristics, activities, and distribution of all life forms. Competition-driven demand by consumers, when coupled with supply-side conditions permitting economic growth, leads to adaptation and escalation among organisms. Although disruptions in production halt or reverse these processes temporarily, they amplify escalation in the long run to produce trends in all economic systems toward greater power, higher production rates, and a wider reach for economic systems and their strongest members. Despite our unprecedented power to shape our surroundings, we humans are subject to all the economic principles and historical trends that emerged at life's origin more than 3 billion years ago. Engagingly written, brilliantly argued, and sweeping in scope, Nature: An Economic History shows that the human institutions most likely to preserve opportunity and adaptability are, after all, built like successful living things.
Table of Contents
Prefacep. vii
Economy and Evolution: A Road Mapp. 1
The Evolving Economyp. 13
Human and Nonhuman Economies Comparedp. 38
The Economics of Everyday: Consumption and the Role of Enemies in Naturep. 59
The Economics of Everyday: Production and the Role of Resourcesp. 92
The Ingredients of Power and Opportunity: Technology and Organizationp. 121
The Ingredients of Power and Opportunity: The Environmentp. 145
The Geography of Power and Innovationp. 169
Breaking Down and Building Up: The Role of Disturbancep. 204
Patterns in History: Toward Greater Reach and Powerp. 246
The Future of Growth and Powerp. 292
Abbreviationsp. 317
The Geological Time Scalep. 319
Notesp. 321
Literature Citedp. 371
Indexp. 431
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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