The American System: A Schumpeterian History of Standardization (Part I)

17 Pages Posted: 14 May 2007

See all articles by Andrew L. Russell

Andrew L. Russell

Stevens Institute of Technology - Program in Science & Technology Studies; Johns Hopkins University

Date Written: September 2005


Standards can create intra-firm and inter-firm efficiencies. They facilitate economies of scale in manufacturing and promote interoperability between a variety of complementary products. In the final analysis, standards provide means for promoting stability over uncertainty, and for managing the complexities of industrial production. The creation and adoption of de facto standards - and the discarding of old standards for newer standards - illustrate perfectly the dynamic characteristics of the perennial gale of Schumpeterian creative destruction. This essay first traces the history of de facto standards within firms in the beginning decades of the American industrial revolution. It then looks at examples of de facto standards spreading beyond their points of origin through market mechanisms and ad hoc relationships. Finally, it discusses the status of de facto standards in the global networks of firms that are active in the Third Industrial Revolution that emerged in the latter decades of the twentieth century.

Keywords: standardization, standards, Schumpeter, creative destruction, de facto, First Industrial Revolution, Second Industrial Revolution, Third Industrial Revolution, innovation, interoperability, telecommunications

JEL Classification: B15,B25,L14,L22,L60,L96,N00,O31,O33,P13,P16

Suggested Citation

Russell, Andrew L., The American System: A Schumpeterian History of Standardization (Part I) (September 2005). Progress & Freedom Foundation Progress on Point Paper No. 12.18, Available at SSRN: or

Andrew L. Russell (Contact Author)

Stevens Institute of Technology - Program in Science & Technology Studies ( email )

College of Arts & Letters
Hoboken, NJ 07030
United States

Johns Hopkins University ( email )

History of Science and Technology
3505 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
United States

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