Edited by Harald Bathelt, Patrick Cohendet, Sebastian Henn and Laurent Simon
Chapter 2: A conceptual history of innovation
Innovation is a concept that everyone understands spontaneously, or thinks they understand; that every theorist talks about and every government espouses. Yet, it has not always been so. For the last five hundred years, the concept innovation has been a dirty word. The history of the concept of innovation is an untold story. It is a story of myths and conceptual confusions. In this chapter, I study the ways in which thoughts on innovation of early modern society gave rise to innovation theory in the twentieth century. Namely, how, when and why a pejorative and morally connoted word shifted to a much-valued concept. I offer a history of the concept of innovation, going back to antiquity. A history that takes the use of the concept seriously: from polemical to instrumental to theoretical.
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