An International Relations Theory of Technological Change

24 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2007

See all articles by Mark Zachary Taylor

Mark Zachary Taylor

Georgia Institute of Technology - The Sam Nunn School of International Affairs

Date Written: July 2005


Why are some countries more technologically innovative than others? National technological capability plays an important causal role in theories of war, alliance formation, and patterns of international trade and finance. However, explanations for national differences in technological capabilities have had little place in theories of international politics. This gap is the result of assumptions made by most IR theorists that the rate and direction of technological change are either random, scientifically determined, or structured solely by domestic institutions. This paper will bring together recent findings about the political economy of technological innovation in order to show that much of this conventional wisdom about technology is incorrect. Instead it will be theorized that, due to the distributive nature of technological change, each nation's balance of internal versus external threats to security determines its technological trajectory. That is, ceteris paribus, states concerned more with domestic security (the maintenance of civil order between domestic interest groups) should innovate relatively less; states concerned more with external security threats (to strategic economic inputs or military capability) should innovate relatively more. Put more simply, this paper will show how international relations are as important as domestic institutions, if not more so, in determining national innovation rates.

Keywords: technology, technological, innovation, institutions, security, omnibalancing

JEL Classification: O3, O11, P26

Suggested Citation

Taylor, Mark Zachary, An International Relations Theory of Technological Change (July 2005). Available at SSRN: or

Mark Zachary Taylor (Contact Author)

Georgia Institute of Technology - The Sam Nunn School of International Affairs ( email )

781 Marietta Street NW
Atlanta, GA 30332-1610
United States

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics