An Alternative Perspective
New Horizons in Institutional and Evolutionary Economics series
Edited by Erik S. Reinert
Chapter 7: Technological Revolutions, Paradigm Shifts and Socio-institutional Change
Carlota Perez The last decades of the twentieth century were a time of uncertainty and extremely uneven development. People in many countries and in most walks of life felt uncertain about the future for themselves and their workplaces, about the prospects for their own countries and for the world as a whole. Inside each country and between countries there were strong centrifugal trends generating unprecedented growth and wealth at one end of the socio-economic spectrum and increasing poverty, deterioration and degradation at the other. Among those old enough to remember, there was widespread recognition that the erratic, uneven and unstable climate of the 1980s and 1990s was profoundly diﬀerent from the ‘golden age’ of growth of the 1950s and 1960s. This recognition is probably at the root of the revival of interest in long waves. This chapter puts forth an interpretation of the long-wave phenomenon which oﬀers to provide criteria for guiding social creativity in times such as the present. In it, I deﬁne this period as one of transition between two distinct technological styles – or techno-economic paradigms – and of construction of a new mode of growth. Such construction would imply a process of deep, though gradual, change in ideas, behaviours, organizations and institutions, strongly related to the nature of the wave of technical change involved. Indeed, contrary to what is usually assumed, I suggest that long waves are not merely an economic phenomenon, though they certainly have economic manifestations. Long waves aﬀect the whole system,...
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