An Essay on Adaptive Development


  • Gabriel Braga Filartiga BNDES



Development, Adaptive Efficiency, Learning, Spontaneous Order


Development theory and practice need a new approach that, more than pointing out institutions to be improved, unveils the underlying mechanisms of path dependent processes of underdevelopment. This paper presents insights for such approach while making the statement that development is not exclusively an issue of interventionism, but rather must be taken from the perspective of spontaneous order. The starting point is the idea that development is an evolutionary process of trials, errors, learning and adaptation. The keystone is the concept of learning as a process of adaptive reorganization that links the microgenesis of capabilities and institutions to the production of social goods. The main argument in that adaptive efficiency
is the product of an evolutionary process in which certain types of learning prevail, locking societies in vicious cycles of underdevelopment or unlocking the path to prosperity. When individuals and groups learn reflectively, in the sense that they reflect upon not only their problem-solving tasks but also upon the assumptions underlying their actions, they are more likely to adaptively reorganize capabilities and institutions locally. Without such reflection, they keep locked in unreflective patterns of underdevelopment.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...


ACEMOGLU, Daron, JOHNSON, Simon and ROBINSON, James. Institutions as the Fundamental Cause of Long- Run Growth. NBER Working Paper n. 10481. Cambridge MA, National Bureau of Economic Research, 2004.

COASE, Ronald H. The Nature of the Firm. Economica, v. 4, 1937. DOI:

COASE, Ronald H. The Problem of Social Cost. Journal of Law and Economics, v. 3, 1960. DOI:

DIAMOND, Jared. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1999.

FRIEDMAN, Milton. The Methodology of Positive Economics. In: MARTIN, Michael; MCINTYRE, LEE C. (eds). Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science. Cambrigde: MIT Press, 1994.

HAYEK, F. A. Individualism and Economic Order. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1948.

HAYEK, F. A. The Constitution of Liberty. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1960.

HAYEK, F. A. The Theory of Complex Phenomena. In: MARTIN, Michael; MCINTYRE, LEE C. (eds.). Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science. Cambrigde: MIT Press, 1994 [1967].

HUTCHINS, Edwin. Cognition in the Wild. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995.

HUTCHINS, Edwin; HAZELHURST, Brian. Learning in the Cultural Process. In: LANGSTONE, C. G. et al. (eds). Artificial Life II. Redwood City: Addison-Wesley, 2003.

LUCAS Jr., Robert E. On the Mechanics of Economic Development. Journal of Monetary Economics, v. 22, 1988. DOI:

MACFARLAN, Maitland; EDISON, Hali; SPATAFORA, Nicola. Growth and Institutions. World Economic Outlook. Washington DC: IMF, 2003.

MANTZAVINOS, Chris; NORTH, Douglass C.; SHARIQ Syed. Learning, Institutions and Economic Performance. Perspectives on Politics, v. 2, n. 1, 2004. DOI:

NORTH, Douglass C. Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

NORTH, Douglass C. Understanding the Process of Economic Change. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005.

NORTH, Douglass C., WALLIS, John J. and WEINGAST, Barry R. Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History. NY: Cambridge University Press, 2009. DOI:

PUTNAM, Robert D. Comunidade e Democracia: A Experiência da Itália Moderna. Rio de Janeiro: Editora FGV, 2007 [1993].

ROMER, Paul M. Increasing Returns and Long-run Growth. Journal of Political Economy, v. 94, 1986. DOI:

SACHS, Jeffrey. Government, Geography and Growth: The True Drivers of Economic Development. Foreign Affairs, v. 91, n. 5, 2012.

WILLIAMSON, Oliver E. Comparative Economic Organization: The Analysis of Discrete Structural Alternatives. Administrative Science Quarterly, v. 36, n. 2 jun/1991. DOI:




How to Cite

Filartiga GB. An Essay on Adaptive Development. MisesJournal [Internet]. 2019 Aug. 19 [cited 2024 May 21];7(2). Available from:



Original Research Articles