Innovation Politics: When and How Does Technological Change Create Political Action?
30 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 14 Nov 2012
Date Written: August 31, 2011
Technology is central to several major debates within political science. However, political scientists still do not have a general theory of how, and under what conditions, technological change drives domestic and international politics. Instead, current research tends to take a piecemeal approach, focusing on individual technologies or particular periods of technological crisis, development, or modernization. In general theoretical discussions, technology has been relegated to that long list of “and also” independent variables regularly used to flesh out causal explanations of political outcomes. But if we are to understand the political consequences of, and the political obstacles to, technological change, then scholars need a more comprehensive framework. We need to move technological change to the center of political analysis and theorizing. This paper lays the foundation for such a framework by explaining how technology generates international political conflicts, and by identifying the conditions under which these technological politics will become more or less severe. Specifically, this paper will show that technological change is most likely to generate significant political conflicts in three specific circumstances: when it creates, alters, or eliminates 1) market failures; 2) political or economic redistribution; or 3) social constructions of value. This paper will further argue that international technological politics will be most severe when the costs (benefits) of technological change are concentrated on well-defined interest groups whose specific assets are threatened with a loss of relative value.
Keywords: street, lighting, music, storage, mp3, drm, telecommunications, telegraph, telephone, containers, GMO, genetic
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