Can a Nation Learn? American Technology as a Network Phenomenon
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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