Systemic Linkages Between Knowledge and the Market
New Horizons in the Economics of Innovation series
Edited by Blandine Laperche, Dimitri Uzunidis and G. N. von Tunzelmann
Chapter 5: The Relationship between Military and Commercial Technologies: An Empirical and Analytical Perspective
Claude Serfati 1. INTRODUCTION ‘War is necessary for technological progress’. While this kind of claim is quite popular and often translated into academic language, it oﬀers very little, if any help. Certainly, ever since the dawn of humanity, war has been part of social life, and for that reason it has also been a component and a driver of technological advance. This observation is still quite insuﬃcient, nonetheless, because the huge economic, social and environmental cost – what economists narrowly call ‘opportunity costs’ – have to be taken into account. Beyond that, more than such a cliché is needed if we are to adopt an institutionalist-based analysis and provide an historical account of the (changing) relations between military and commercial technologies. This chapter addresses some issues related to military and commercial technology relations. It is structured as follows. Section 1 puts the debate in its historical context, and underlines that discourses on these relations have changed over the last six decades, going from ‘spin-oﬀ’ to ‘spin-in’, then to ‘dual-technologies’. In the mid-1990s, it was generally thought that generalising dual-use technologies would bring to an end the story of the relations between military and commercial technologies. The Internet case is then presented, which in the course of a history spanning four decades, provides evidence of a more complex relation between military and commercial than the usual claim that ‘the Internet was invented by the military’. Sections 2 and 3 address how the new security agenda adopted by the European Union...
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