Chapter 6: Uneven Development and Time-Lags in Diffusion
Since the end of the nineteenth century, there have been several attempts at recognizing and explaining the occurrence of 50–60-year cycles or long waves in economic growth, generally associated with the name of Nicolai Kondratiev, who in the 1920s made an attempt at systematically measuring the phenomenon.75 The debates have continued ever since, both about their very existence and about their possible causes.76 On the whole, long-wave interpretations have been bogged down by three conceptual shortcomings involving expectations that cannot be fulfilled: 1. the attempt to confine the analysis of the long wave within a narrowly defined economic system and to search for endogenous causes; 2. the insistence on finding regular up and downswings in GNP and other aggregate variables; and 3. the conviction that such cycles must be simultaneous worldwide phenomena. The model being presented here avoids these three ideas considering them misleading directions of research. The first point has already been addressed by suggesting that long waves are not economic cycles but a much wider systemic phenomenon where social and institutional factors play a key role by first resisting and then facilitating the unfolding of the potential of each technological revolution. This difference led to proposing the term ‘great surges’ to shift the focus from economic measurement to the qualitative understanding of the complex tensions and forces involved in the process of assimilating change.77 Moreover, the very occurrence of those big revolutionary leaps in technology has been explained here 75. 76. 77. Kondratiev (1926). For a discussion...
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