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Fausto Corvino

This thought-provoking book analyses the process of labour commodification, through which the individual’s ability to earn a basic living becomes dependent on the conditions of the market relationship. Building on the premise that the separation of a group of individuals from the means of production is an intrinsic element of capitalism, Fausto Corvino theorises that this implies a form of domination in a neo-republican sense.
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The Idea of Technological Innovation

A Brief Alternative History

Benoît Godin

This timely book explores technological innovation as a concept, dissecting its emergence, development and use. Beno"t Godin offers an exciting new historiography of the subject, arguing that the study of innovation originates not from scholars but from practitioners of innovation.
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Benoît Godin

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Capitalism in Transformation

Movements and Countermovements in the 21st Century

Edited by Roland Atzmüller, Brigitte Aulenbacher, Ulrich Brand, Fabienne Décieux, Karin Fischer and Birgit Sauer

Presenting a profound and far-reaching analysis of economic, ecological, social, cultural and political developments of contemporary capitalism, this book draws on the work of Karl Polanyi, and re-reads it for our times. The renowned authors offer key insights to current changes in the relations between the economy, politics and society, and their ecological and social effects.
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Benoît Godin

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Benoît Godin

The next stage in the study of technological change comes from an economic historian. In 1942, at the suggestion of Sumner Slichter, Rupert Maclaurin, Professor in the Department of Economics at MIT, organized a conference on “the role of technological research in our economy” at the 54th annual meeting of the American Economic Association. According to Maclaurin, “All [participants at the conference] agreed that full employment and an expanding economy are desirable post-war objectives and that considerably more analysis needs to be made of the kind of entrepreneurial motivation and the kind of environmental conditions necessary to achieve an industrial renaissance in manufacturing” (Maclaurin, 1942: 232). The year before, Maclaurin had initiated the first scholarly research program on technological change. In 1941, he obtained a five-year grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to study the “factors and conditions responsible for technological change”. At the time there was almost no scholarly literature on the subject. Technological change was studied, when it was studied at all, in terms of unemployment and labor productivity. Maclaurin’s program of research was entirely different. He was interested in the process leading to technological change, namely the steps necessary to bring an invention to the market. According to Maclaurin, “although economists have long been interested in technological change, there has been very little investigation of the factors influencing the rate of technological progress in particular industries” (Bright and Maclaurin, 1943: 429). “Until quite recently”, stated Maclaurin:

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Benoît Godin

Having defined technological innovation as the commercialization of goods, what remains is to study how technological innovation happens. Two concepts serve this purpose - process and system - traces of which are present in the policy documents studied in Chapter 7. The one - process - postulates that technological innovation starts with pure science. The other - system - is a contestation of this belief, insisting that technological innovation is a whole and scientists are only one part of it, and certainly not the initiating actors. These two concepts define two approaches that serve to make sense of technological innovation. I distinguish between approach and theory here. Theories of technological innovation are discussed in the next chapter. Here I document the genealogy of the approaches that guide the theorists. An approach is a conceptual framework or discursive and programmatic device that provides a vision and a storyline or narrative to interpret the world (Braun, 1999; Fisher, 2003).

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Benoît Godin

Technological change is a term that allows for broad conceptualization. For example, in the 1950s, surveys of technological change (Brozen, 1951b) were similar to surveys of the history of technology (Clemen, 1951) and, in several ways, similar to surveys of technology and social change (Allen, 1959). They covered the same breadth (a broad definition of technological change) and surveyed the same authors (historians, economists and sociologists). But at the same time, concepts can be made more specific to serve disciplinary boundaries, as economists did. The economists’ representation of technological change is the standard representation of technology: industrial techniques or processes, and their effects on technological progress - employment and productivity, efficiency and output, growth and national income. In this context, what representation of technological change did the social sciences and the humanities espouse during and after the econometric turn? To some extent, historians of technology share the representation of economists (for example, Mumford, 1961; Landes, 1965), as do writers on industrial relations and management (for example, Smith, 1935; Rieger, 1942; Dunlop, 1962; Somers et al., 1963; Bright, 1963, 1970, 1973). They are followed by public organizations. However, some other disciplines developed a different representation, even a more critical one. This Interlude studies some of the representations other than the economic.

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The Invention of Technological Innovation

Languages, Discourses and Ideology in Historical Perspective

Benoît Godin

This timely book provides an intellectual and conceptual history of a key representation of innovation: technological innovation. Tracing the history of the discourses of scholars, practitioners and policy-makers, and exploring how and why innovation became defined as technological, Benoît Godin studies the emergence of the term, its meaning, and its transformation and use over time.
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Benoît Godin

Technological innovation is only one of many kinds of innovation. It is also one of the many terms coined to make use of the concept of innovation. In recent years, the concept gave rise to a plethora of terms like social innovation, sustainable innovation, responsible innovation and the like as alternatives to industrial and technological innovation. I call these terms X-innovation. How can we make sense of this semantic extension? Why do these terms come into being? What drives people to coin new terms and what do they want to achieve? The story is one of appropriation and contestation. On one hand, people appropriate a word (innovation) for its value-laden character and because of what they can do with it. A word with such a polysemy as innovation is a multi-purpose word. It works in the public mind (imaginaries) and among policy-makers. It also contributes to scholars’ citation records. On the other hand, people contest a term (technological innovation) because of its hegemonic connotation. They coin alternative ones that often become a brand.