Economics as an Evolutionary System—Psychological Development and Economic Behavior

  • Bernard Lietaer
  • Stefan Brunnhuber


Consciousness changes occur in a clearly identifiable sequence that can be described as premodern, modern, and post-modern levels. Each one of these levels is characterized by specific patterns of being, feeling and thinking, acting and communicating. When the historical evolution of economic systems and its key organizing institution of money are mapped on that same sequence, interesting insights arise on today’s state of economic theory, and on its likely future evolution towards a Knowledge-based economy. After identifying the necessary characteristics of any development, as well as some potential failures in that process, a description of development as empirically verified in the psychological domain is given, leading to the observation that the consciousness reference point is itself an evolutionary process; These findings are applied to economic behavior and to the evolution of the money system specifically, with the conclusion that “economic man” is a valid model only within one particular consciousness level; Finally a synthesis of the implications of all the above for the future evolution of both human society in general and economics in particular is discussed.


evolutionary psychology pre- post difference homo economicus moneysystem complementary currencies 


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© Japan Association for Evolutionary Economics 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Sustainable Resources, University of California at Berkeley, Visiting Professor Marpa Center for Business and EconomicsNaropa UniversityBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Psychotherapy and Medical PsychologyUniversity of WürzburgWürzburgGermany

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