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Handbook on the Economic Complexity of Technological Change

Handbook on the Economic Complexity of Technological Change

Elgar original reference

Edited by Cristiano Antonelli

This comprehensive and innovative Handbook applies the tools of the economics of complexity to analyse the causes and effects of technological and structural change. It grafts the intuitions of the economics of complexity into the tradition of analysis based upon the Schumpeterian and Marshallian legacies.

Chapter 14: Notes on a Complexity Theory of Economic Development

Koen Frenken and Ron Boschma

Subjects: economics and finance, economics of innovation, evolutionary economics, innovation and technology, economics of innovation


Koen Frenken and Ron Boschma 1. INTRODUCTION For many, the advent of complexity theory at the end of the last century promised an intellectual liberation from the neoclassical straitjacket that dominated the economics discipline for so long. Indeed, quite a few attempts to apply the concept of complexity theory to economic phenomena followed, for example, as collected in the three edited volumes entitled The Economy as an Evolving Complex System (Anderson et al., 1988). Taking stock of the progress in the field during the past two decades, one may argue that complexity theory has been successful in providing new explanatory models for a number of isolated phenomena, yet has failed to provide a new research program in economics. This may come as no surprise since complexity theory is best understood as a set of modeling techniques with ‘family resemblance’, rather than a consistent theory in the proper sense of the word. Thus, to be useful in theorizing, complexity theory needs to be supplemented with an ‘ontology’ relevant to the question at hand. The question we raise here is the question of economic development. We understand the process of economic development as a joint process of economic growth and qualitative change (Saviotti, 1996). Furthermore, we also understand the process of economic development as a spatial process, where development is fundamentally uneven across cities, regions and countries (Boschma and Frenken, 2006). Finally, we understand the process of economic development, first and foremost, as a process driven by efforts of firms and cities...

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