Technology and Social Process

By Brian Elliott | Go to book overview

SEVEN: DAVID WOLFE
SOCIO-POLITICAL CONTEXTS OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE: SOME CONCEPTUAL MODELS

Recent studies of technological change have begun to appreciate the complex interdependence between the purely economic dynamics, and the broader social and political factors, underlying the process. At issue is the manner in which infrastructures of social and political institutions constitute the environment within which technological innovation occurs and is diffused throughout the economy, as well as the role which these infrastructures play in facilitating or retarding the shift from one technological paradigm to another.[ 1] The significance of studies of this nature has been emphasised by the Science Council of Canada's Arthur Cordell:

The rate and magnitude of change are rapidly outpacing the complex of theories -- economic, social, and philosophical -- on which public and private decisions are based. To the extent that we continue to view the world from the perspective of an earlier, vanishing age, we will continue to misunderstand the developments surrounding the transition to an information society, be unable to realise the full economic and social potential of this revolutionary technology, and risk making some very serious mistakes as reality and the theories we use to interpret it continue to diverge. ( Cordell, 1985:136).

The relevance of this type of study has increased all the more as a result of the economic experience of the past decade. It is evident that the western industrial economies have entered a period of profound change and transformation. The golden age of post-war expansion, marked by steadily rising per capita incomes and standards of living, has given way to a period of economic instability. The reason for this transition is the source of much confusion and disagreement. The prevailing view among econ-

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