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European Journal of Economic and Social Systems
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 ARTICLE VOL 20/2 - 2007  - pp.141-146

The aim of this Special Issue of the “European Journal of Social and Economic System” is to collect a series of papers which deal with the issue of knowledge recombination and innovation, adopting different perspectives and using different methodologies. The term recombination is taken from genetics and it means “the natural formation in offspring of genetic combinations not present in parents by the processes of crossing over or independent assortment”1. It appeared in the economics literature quite recently, imported by a biologist, Stuart Kauffman (e.g. 1993), who is interested in complex systems; and by an economist, Martin Weitzman (e.g. 1998), who studies economic growth. Both of them refers to this concept, since they intend to show how new ideas emerge from a combination of past ideas and to stress that the element of novelty arises from the new way to relate (keep together) pre-existing elements instead of inventing ex-nihilo. The idea is far from being new, even in economics. Already Usher (1929) and Schumpeter (1934) evoked this feature of both inventive and innovative activities. The former claimed that “invention finds its distinctive feature in the constructive assimilation of pre-existing elements into new synthesis, new patterns or new configurations”; the latter that the essence of innovation is “carrying out new combinations” and that “development consists primarily in employing existing resources in a different way, in doing new things with them”. Moreover, already the French mathematician Henri Poincaré recognized this point long time ago, for example, when reflecting on how the finest ideas were generated in the sciences: “They are those which reveal to us unsuspected kinship between other facts, long known, but wrongly believed to be strangers to one another. Amongst chosen combinations the most fertile will often be those formed of elements drawn from domains which are far apart.” (1908). More recently, the theory of the firm in the Schumpeterian vein has referred expressly to it: “the creation of any sort of novelty in art, science or practical lifeconsists to a substantial extent of a recombination of conceptual and physical materials that were previously in existence” (Nelson and Winter, 1982, p. 130).




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