Innovation as a Political Process of Development: Are Neo-Schumpetarians Value Neutral?

Since the reconstruction of Joseph Schumpeter’s view of innovation as a driver of capitalist development and the subsequent formation of the national innovation systems (NIS) theory in the early 1990s that can be described as neo-Schumpeterian, there has been a continuous attempt to analyse innovation. However, much of this has positioned innovation as a value-neutral process. We argue that such value-neutrality requires closer analysis because the neo-Schumpeterian thinkers do appear to acknowledge that capitalism itself is an uneven, dynamic process. The relationship between the vital dynamism of such analysis of technological change and the context of its description of power relations and value deserves further attention. Under what conditions are systemic interactions between institutions and actors potentially universalisable? Can the theory of innovation be abstracted from its social and political bases? This paper aims to redefine innovation as a predominately political process that is both historical and contextual, and thus draw out its implications for development politics.
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SPRU’s 50th Anniversary Conference on Transforming Innovation