Social Evolution, Economic Development and Culture
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Social Evolution, Economic Development and Culture

What it Means to Take Japan Seriously

Ronald Dore and D. Hugh Whittaker

Social Evolution, Economic Development and Culture brings together Ronald Dore’s key writings for the first time, making his work accessible across a wide range of social science disciplines. It produces a distinctive perspective with four interlinking themes – technology-driven social evolution, late development, culture and polemics. These are highly topical in the current context of rapid technological innovation and socio-economic change, globalization and accompanying policy choices.
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Chapter 12: Technological self-reliance: sturdy ideal or self-serving rhetoric?*

Ronald Dore and D. Hugh Whittaker


GLOSSARY For the purposes of this paper, words are used as follows: Transfer of technology By ‘transfer of technology to developing countries’ I understand ‘getting knowledge that is only in some foreigners’ heads into the heads of one’s own nationals’. The learning process may well be largely accomplished by buying and studying some piece of imported capital equipment in which the new knowledge is embodied, as when the Japanese government bought its first Jacquard loom, and had its craftsmen dismantle and assemble it time after time until they had learned its technology and could then begin to think about devising or buying or stealing the technology of making it. And nowadays it may be a sensible shortcut to import both machine and its original devisors in some form of joint venture. But it is entirely possible for technology to be transferred as blueprints or as images in someone’s head. Buying technology involves buying (a) the right to be taught the technology, (b) exemption from claims under patent laws, and also, though not necessarily, also, (c) hardware embodying the technology, although that is often the most sensible shortcut. [The common phrase ‘independent technological capacity’ needs breaking down into independent technology learning capacity and independent technology creating capacity, hereafter ‘learning capacity’ and ‘creation capacity’ tout court.] The first is what the Japanese showed they had by the time they could put their Jacquard loom back together again blindfold; the second was what they had when they worked out which of its metal...

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