Economics is viewed as a di scipline that is mainly concerned with ‘simplistic’ theorizing, centered upon constrained optimization. As such, it is ahistorical and outcome focused, ie, it does notdeal with economic processes. It is argued that all parts of the economy are inhabited by complex adaptive systems operating in complicated
historical contexts and that this should be acknowledge d at the core of economic analysis. It is explained how economics changes in fundamental ways when such a perspective is adopted, even if the presumption that people will try to optimize subject to constraints is retained. This is illustrated through discussi on of how the production
function construct has been used to provid e an abstract representation of the network structures that exist in complex adaptive systems such as firms. It is argued that this has led to a serious understatement of the importance of rule systems that govern the connections in productive networks. The macroeconomics of John Maynard Keynes is then revisited to provide an example of how some economists in earlier times were able to provide powerful economic analysis that was based on intuitions that we can now classify as belonging to complex system s perspective on the economy. Throughout the paper, the reasons why a complex system
s perspective did not develop in the mainstream of economics in the 20th. Century, despite the massive popularity of an economist like Keynes, are discussed and this is returned to in the concluding section where the prospect of paradigmatic change o ccurring in the future is evaluated.