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Innovation as a Political Process of Development: Are neo-Schumpeterians Value Neutral?

3 October 2016

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. Much of this analysis, however, has positioned innovation as a value-neutral process.

Now, in Innovation as a Political Process of Development: Are Neo-Schumpeterians Value Neutral?, a paper first presented at SPRU’s 50th Anniversary Conference on Transforming Innovation (7-9 September 2016, University of Sussex) and currently being worked on for journal publication, Theo Papaioannou and Smita Srinivas argue that such value-neutrality requires closer analysis. If it is indeed the case that neo-Schumpeterian thinkers acknowledge that capitalism is an uneven, dynamic process – as they appear to – then it is high time that the relationship between analysis of technological change and the context of its description of power relations and value received further attention.

Starting from the viewpoint that neither markets nor innovation systems evolve spontaneously as value-free or neutral mechanisms, but are rather embedded in value-bound social, political and cultural relations, the authors explore whether it is possible to abstract the theory of innovation from its social and political bases. In the process, they aim to redefine innovation as a predominately political process that is both historical and contextual, and thus draw out its implications for development politics.

Read full draft version of Innovation as a Political Process of Development: Are Neo-Schumpeterians Value Neutral?

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