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Reverse Salients at the Meta-System Level: The Case of Containerization


  • Harmeet Sawhney
  • Xiaofei Wang


The power of Hughes' concept of reverse salients is evident in its widespread adoption and use in areas as diverse as water distribution, metals production, and mobile music businesses. In all these studies the reverse salient concept has been mainly applied to internal problems in the development of a large-scale system. We focus not only on reverse salients within a system but also at the meta-system level, wherein different systems come together to create a system of systems. We draw on the experience with containerization, which is a particularly interesting case study because it developed in response to the reverse salients at the meta-system level—the bottlenecks at the interfaces between motor carriers, railroads, and water carriers, the three systems that together form the overall surface transportation system. We examine the processes both within each system and also at the meta-system level and expand our understanding of reverse salients as a system development phenomenon.

Suggested Citation

  • Harmeet Sawhney & Xiaofei Wang, 2009. "Reverse Salients at the Meta-System Level: The Case of Containerization," Prometheus, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 27(2), pages 153-169.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:promet:v:27:y:2009:i:2:p:153-169
    DOI: 10.1080/08109020902895284

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