New Empirical Methods and Simulation Techniques
Edited by Pier Paolo Saviotti
Chapter 11: Unlocking a Lock-in: Towards a Model of Technological Succession
Paul Windrum1 1. INTRODUCTION Schumpeter laid stress on the importance of technological discontinuities in economic history. In contrast to Marshall, who on the ﬁrst page of his Principles of Economics stated that Natura non facit saltum (Nature does not leap), Schumpeter argued that ‘evolution is lopsided, discontinuous, disharmonious by nature ... studded with violent outbursts and catastrophes ... more like a series of explosions than a gentle, though incessant, transformation’ (Schumpeter, 1939, p. 102). Schumpeter did not disagree that there are long periods of gradual development that are marked by the incremental development of dominant technologies. However, he stressed that such periods are punctuated by short bursts in which new technological products, processes and associated knowledge replace the existing regimes. It is these bursts of ‘creative destruction’ that truly drive the system in a new direction. Such a shift ‘so displaces its equilibrium point that the new one cannot be reached from the old one by inﬁnitesimal steps. Add successively as many mail coaches as you please, you will never get a railway thereby’ (Schumpeter, 1939, p. 37). Schumpeter’s view of economic evolution clearly has much in common with the ecological theory of punctuated equilibrium later put forward by Gould and Eldridge (1977). [O]nce they appear, species tend not to change very much at all. They may last 5 or 10 million years – sometimes even longer – and yet, while a few might undergo the sort of gradual, ‘progressive’ modiﬁcation we have come to expect of evolution, most will stay...
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