Affiliated Organization

University of Amsterdam, Netherlands


This paper is motivated by the belief that the notion of ‘generalized Darwinism’ offers ameta-theory that provides a logical foundation for the integration of the different theoreticalperspectives in the extensive literature on the selection and adaptation of organizations. We clarify thenotion of generalized Darwinism, and argue that its recursive causal logic provides the only possibleexplanation for the way in which organizations achieve adaptive fit. The crucial insights that can bederived from a generalization of Darwinism are twofold. First, contrary to a widely held belief, there isno logical contradiction between Darwinian and Lamarckian evolution. Second, environmentalselection processes and intentional adaptation are part of one and the same process. We conclude thatthe explanatory logic of generalized Darwinism demonstrates that the adaptation-selection debate ismisconstrued. Adaptation and selection are simply different aspects of the same evolutionary processand complement each other in a Darwinian explanation of how organizational change can lead toenvironmental fit.