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Can a Nation Learn? American Technology as a Network Phenomenon

In: Learning by Doing in Markets, Firms, and Countries

  • Gavin Wright

December 1997 With specific reference to the American surge into world economic leadership in the decades bracketing the turn of the twentieth century, the paper advances two propositions: First, that American technological progress was a network phenomenon, growing out of the actions of large numbers of interacting people -- not necessarily in formally structured institutions of coordination. Second, that these networks were strongly national in character. An implication is that American industrial firms were able to institutionalize research and development programs successfully after 1900, in large part because they could draw upon, extend, and channel the energies of previously existing technological networks. In a real sense the learning was national.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Naomi R. Lamoreaux & Daniel M. G. Raff & Peter Temin, 1999. "Learning by Doing in Markets, Firms, and Countries," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number lamo99-1, March.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 10236.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:10236
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    1. Michael L. Katz & Carl Shapiro, 1994. "Systems Competition and Network Effects," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(2), pages 93-115, Spring.
    2. Granovetter, Mark, 1995. "Coase Revisited: Business Groups in the Modern Economy," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(1), pages 93-130.
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    8. Marshall, Alfred, 1920. "Industry and Trade," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, edition 3, number marshall1920.
    9. Kenneth Arrow, 1962. "Economic Welfare and the Allocation of Resources for Invention," NBER Chapters, in: The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity: Economic and Social Factors, pages 609-626 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Olmstead, Alan L & Rhode, Paul, 1993. "Induced Innovation in American Agriculture: A Reconsideration," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(1), pages 100-118, February.
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    13. Maddison, Angus, 1987. "Growth and Slowdown in Advanced Capitalist Economies: Techniques of Quantitative Assessment," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 25(2), pages 649-98, June.
    14. Rosenberg, Nathan & Nelson, Richard R., 1994. "American universities and technical advance in industry," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 323-348, May.
    15. Melvin T. Copeland, 1909. "Technical Development in Cotton Manufacturing Since 1860," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(1), pages 109-159.
    16. Abramovitz, Moses & David, Paul A, 1973. "Reinterpreting Economic Growth: Parables and Realities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(2), pages 428-39, May.
    17. Temin, Peter, 1966. "Labor Scarcity and the Problem of American Industrial Efficiency in the 1850's," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 26(03), pages 277-298, September.
    18. Harley, C. K., 1974. "Skilled labour and the choice of technique in Edwardian industry," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 391-414.
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