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Richard Nelson heads the program on Science, Technology, and Global Development, at the Columbia Earth Institute, and is George Blumenthal Professor of International and Public Affairs, Business, and Law, at Columbia, Emeritus, and Visiting Professor at the University of Manchester. He has served as research economist and analyst at the Rand Corporation, and at the President’s Council of Economic Advisors. His central interests have been in long-run economic change. Much of his research has been directed toward understanding technological change, how economic institutions and public policies influence the evolution of technology, and how technological change in turn induces institutional and economic change more broadly. Along with Sidney Winter, he has pioneered in trying to develop a way of economic theorizing that recognizes explicitly that the economy is almost always undergoing change, most of it unpredictable, and that theories that assume that economic agents understand well the context in which they are operating, and that the system is in equilibrium, are inadequate for analysis of many important economic questions. His book with Winter, An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change is widely recognized as a landmark in this field.

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  • Technology, Institutions, and Economic Growth

    Richard Nelson
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    This volume mounts a full-blown attack on the standard neo-classical theory of economic growth, which Richard Nelson sees as hopelessly inadequate to explain the phenomenon of economic growth. He presents an alternative theory which highlights that economic growth driven by technological advance involves disequilibrium in a fundamental and continuing way. Nelson also argues that a theory of economic growth driven by technological advance must recognize a range of institutions, such as universities, public laboratories, and government agencies, in addition to business firms and markets. He further argues that growth theories that focus on an aggregate measure of growth, such as GNP per capita, are blind to what is going on beneath the aggregate, where differing rates of advance in different sectors, and the birth and death of industries are an essential part of the growth process. The broad theory of economic growth Nelson presents sees the process as involving the co-evolution of technologies, institutions, and industry structure. (Harvard University Press)

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  • The Nature and Dynamics of Organizational Capabilities

    Giovanni Dosi, Richard R. Nelson and Sidney G. Winter
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    In this book, the editors and a team of distinguished international contributors analyse the nature of organizational capabilities--how organizations do things, use their knowledge base, and diffuse that knowledge in a competitive environment. (Oxford University Press)

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  • The Sources of Economic Growth

    Richard Nelson
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    Technological advance is the key driving force behind economic growth, argues Richard Nelson. Investments in physical and human capital contribute to growth largely as handmaidens to technological advance. Technological advance needs to be understood as an evolutionary process, depending much more on ex post selection and learning than on ex ante calculation. That is why it proceeds much more rapidly under conditions of competition than under monopoly or oligopoly.

    Nelson also argues that an adequate theory of economic growth must incorporate institutional change explicitly. Drawing on a deep knowledge of economic and technological history as well as the tools of economic analysis, Nelson exposes the intimate connections among government policies, science-based universities, and the growth of technology. He compares national innovation systems, and explores both the rise of the United States as the world's premier technological power during the first two-thirds of the twentieth century and the diminishing of that lead as other countries have largely caught up.

    Lucid, wide-ranging, and accessible, the book examines the secrets of economic growth and why the U.S. economy has been anemic since the early 1970s. (Harvard University Press)

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