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Innovation, Value-Neutrality and the Question of Politics: the Neo-Schumpeterian Divide

Papaioannou, T

67th Political Studies Association (PSA) Annual International Conference

University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

April 11 2017

Since the reconstruction of Joseph Schumpeter’s view of innovation as a key factor of capitalist economic development and the neo-Schumpeterian formation of national innovation systems theory in the early 1990s, there has been an attempt to approach the emergence of new technological products and processes in institutional terms. However, much of this neo-institutionalism has positioned innovation as if it was a value-neutral process of supply and demand, taking place in a free market and having nothing to do with politics and the state. I argue that such value neutrality is defended by some neo-Schumpeterian thinkers who take a socio-biological path to explaining innovation and technical change. By contrast, some other neo-Schumpeterian thinkers appear to acknowledge that capitalism itself is not a smooth and neutral process of socio-biological evolution but rather an uneven, value-bound and dynamic process of technological change. These thinkers take a historical path to explaining innovation and therefore are more consistent with Schumpeter’s theory of economic development. This divide within the neo-Schumpeterian school of thought deserves further critical analysis.